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Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team Preview: Mike Evans | Fantasy Football

Mike Evans Fantasy

The easy Mike Evans narrative is that he has some combination of Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask throwing him the ball, so this is the season to fade him. Plus, he is now on the wrong side of 29, the age at which most elite wide receivers begin to decline. 

But has the negativity gone too far? Evans is currently being drafted as the WR35 on Underdog Fantasy and WR31, according to FantasyPros ADP. 

That is way too low, and the betting markets agree. Evans’ season-long receiving line is currently 950.5 yards on Underdog and Prize Picks. Additionally, his touchdown line is 6.0 on Underdog and 6.5 on Prize Picks. 

There are currently 13 receivers with lower Underdog receiving and touchdown lines than Evans, who are being drafted ahead of him, according to FantasyPros. Thirteen! Those receivers include Deebo Samuel, Amari Cooper, Keenan Allen, Calvin Ridley, DJ Moore, Michael Pittman, Jerry Jeudy, Mike Williams, Christian Watson, Chris Godwin, Drake London, Christian Kirk, and Tyler Lockett. 

Even though I tend to agree with the betting markets, the quarterback situation is a legitimate concern. Can Mike Evans produce without an elite quarterback? And will Mayfield or Trask be enough to get him to another Top 20 season? Let’s take a look.

Mike Evans 2023 Fantasy Football Outlook

Mike Evans’ History without Tom Brady

The great thing about Mike Evans is that he has never had a season with fewer than 1,000 receiving yards and never finished below WR22 in PPR scoring. The downside is that we all know his 200-yard, three-touchdown Week 17 performance saved his 2022 season.

How significantly? Evans went from the season-long WR23 in Week 16 to WR11 in Week 17. This increases the concern that he was one week away from that dreaded decline.

Even with a shaky 2022, he produced 1,000-yard seasons before Tom Brady entered the picture. 

If you’ve been playing fantasy football long enough, you remember the Jameis Winston years, including the infamous 30-30 season, where Winston posted 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. While the fantasy community often loves Winston for his willingness to push the ball downfield, I don’t think anyone would claim he is an elite quarterback.

While with Winston, Evans maintained his 1,000-yard streak and averaged over seven touchdowns per season. However, it would be overly simplistic to suggest that this proves he will maintain that pace with Mayfield and Trask. 

Instead, let’s go back to 2014 when Tampa Bay had the “elite” duo of Josh McCown and Mike Glennon. This was by far the low point for the Buccaneers, both in team performance and passing volume. That year, they went 2-14, with their quarterbacks combining for 530 attempts and just over 3,600 yards. That’s their lowest volume since Mike Evans has been on the team. 

In Evans’ rookie season, he still posted over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. For reference, that was 60% of all Tampa Bay receiving touchdowns that season.

Evans is an alpha receiver. He will soak up targets, mainly down the field, and be a prominent red zone target. That’s been his game since he entered the league in 2014, and it isn’t changing just because Tom Brady retired. He is as scheme-proof and quarterback-proof of a receiver as you can get. 

But seriously, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Trask?

Can the Tampa Bay Quarterbacks Get Evans the Ball?

I’ll admit it, this quarterback room makes me nervous. And the metrics are not promising. Baker Mayfield’s stats have declined year over year. And Kyle Trask barely has any metrics. 

So I did what every good analytics person does. I checked the tape.

Let’s start with Mayfield. I watched his performance as the Los Angeles Rams quarterback in the latter stages of the 2022 season. Before revisiting the tape, I remembered thinking he performed better than expected, specifically recalling his game-winning touchdown drive just two days after joining the Rams.

But watching the tape gave me a different feeling. He was still very hit-or-miss, fluctuating between straight-up missing receivers and hitting ridiculous throws that make you understand why he was the number-one overall pick. 

And in fairness, he had an awful team surrounding him. According to PFF, the Rams had the 25th-best pass blocking, and Mayfield was throwing to the likes of Tutu Atwell, Van Jefferson, and Brandon Powell. Nearly every time he dropped back, he was evading pressure and throwing to receivers who couldn’t separate. 

Then there’s Kyle Trask. We primarily have preseason tape for Trask. Long story short, the 2021 tape is awful. I started there and immediately regretted agreeing to write this article. He was missing wide-open receivers and was just overall indecisive. 

But 2022 was a clear step ahead, with Trask making quicker decisions from the pocket and hitting his man more consistently. And the stats bear this out, with his completion percentage moving from 53% in 2021 to 64% in 2022 and his average time to throw decreasing from 2.76 to 2.46 seconds simultaneously. 

That isn’t awe-inspiring from either quarterback, but in what amounts to a transition year for Tampa Bay, I expect both to be capable of getting the ball to their receivers. In particular, if Kyle Trask wins the starting job, I’ll be even more bullish on Evans this year.

You’re Already Betting on Quarterbacks

You may have read this article and decided you still don’t trust the Tampa Bay quarterbacks. But remember those 13 receivers I named earlier? Who do the betting markets think is going to underperform Mike Evans?

Of them, you’re betting on quarterbacks like Justin Fields, Anthony Richardson, Russell Wilson, Desmond Ridder, and Jordan Love to produce enough pass volume to support drafting them ahead of Mike Evans. My philosophy is when betting on outcomes, bet on talent, and Evans has proven he has the talent.

Evans should be getting drafted closer to WR20 in line with his 2022 performance. Particularly in half-PPR and standard scoring where touchdowns and yardage are at a premium (like Underdog), he is a value at his current ADP and worth drafting ahead of ADP. If Evans finishes with 1,000 yards and six touchdowns, he will easily finish as a Top 15 receiver when you can draft him as your fourth or fifth receiver. 

Let’s get that ADP higher. 

Be sure you’re following Austin on Twitter. You can also find more of his Club Fantasy work here!

A Look Inside the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Editor’s Note: We don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Austin focused on Mike Evans in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the other fantasy-relevant Buccaneers written by Josh Hudson.

Baker Mayfield

Bruh. We doing this again? We can point to the time when Mayfield once threw footballs to Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry as a reason to believe he can help keep Chris Godwin and Mike Evans afloat for fantasy managers. But the fact of the matter is, Mayfield just isn’t good anymore. Scratch that. He’s good enough to help the Bucs’ chances of securing the number one pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Kyle Trask

Trask is trash. Next.

Rachaad White

Everyone is ready for White to be their lineup savior since he’s such a great value in drafts. (He’s currently going as the RB27 in Underdog drafts.) But with a new OC and a QB who doesn’t throw to RBs the way the previous QB did, I’m less inclined to believe White will have the pass-catching value many expect he will. He also wasn’t a great runner last year, and the offensive line is still meh outside of Tristan Wirfs. White’s (hopefully) a volume back with minimal competition and little efficiency. He’s a cheaper Joe Mixon without the touchdowns.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn

Maybe he finally does something of note. Or he continues to disappoint. Either way, he’s not worth your time.

Chris Godwin

If Mike Evans is the D.K. Metcalf in this derivative of the Seahawks’ offense, Godwin is the Tyler Lockett. The volume will certainly be there, but one has to question the production with uncertainty at QB. As a 5th/6th round pick, it’s not a bad bet to find out, given his history of production.

Russell Gage

There is no room for a 3rd WR in this offense. Gage should’ve stayed in Atlanta. (Where there isn’t even room for a 2nd WR. Whoops.)

Cade Otton

While the TEs saw plenty of work in Seattle a year ago, guessing which one would have a good week was always the tricky part. The good news for Otton is there isn’t much competition behind him. He should develop into a quality safety valve for whoever throws him passes this season. Love him as a late-round dart throw since he’s basically free.

We will be covering every team this offseason. So check back here often for all of our A Look Inside articles