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What You Need to Know:
- Evans finished 17th among WRs in PPR points and 22nd in non-PPR last year after being a 1st-round pick in most fantasy drafts.
- The problems were a drop in volume, a decline in efficiency and a shoulder injury to Jameis Winston.
- While the volume might not rebound much in 2018, a bounce back in efficiency and a healthy Winston give Evans a shot to climb back into WR1 territory.
2017 in review
2017 was a relatively disappointing season for Evans. Emphasis on relatively. He still ranked 17th among WRs in PPR points and 22nd in non-PPR. But that was a poor return on a guy who cost a 1st-round pick in most fantasy leagues.
Evans finished with a career-low 1,001 yards. His 71 catches were his fewest since his 2014 rookie campaign. So, too, were his 136 targets.
That followed a steady ascent over Evans’ first 3 seasons. He boosted his targets, catches and yards each year, from 122-68-1,051 to 148-74-1,206 to 173-96-1,321.
Evans’ TD total continued its rollercoaster ride. After scoring 12 then 3 then 12 times in his first 3 seasons, he dipped back down to 5 last year.
So did Evans regress in 2017? Or was the production dip a result of extenuating circumstances? As usual, the answer is somewhere in between.
Pro Football Focus ranked Evans 14th among 116 WRs in their overall grades and 13th in receiving. But his overall grade actually tied for the worst of his career. Football Outsiders was less kind to Evans, ranking him 42nd out of 86 WRs in DVOA.
Evans did clean up the drop problem that has plagued him early in his career. He dropped just 4 of 75 catchable targets, according to Pro Football Focus — a strong 5.3% drop rate.
His biggest shortcoming? A 1.6 yards-after-catch average that ranked 117th among 121 qualifying WRs.
His overall efficiency, as measured in yards per target, was the worst of his career. He posted 7.36 yards per target after averaging 8.08 over his first 3 seasons. Evans ranked a mediocre 50th in yards per target last year among 85 WRs who saw 50+ looks.
So his performance last year was a bit of a mixed bag. But volume and QB play were also issues.
Evans’ 136 targets were his fewest since his 2014 rookie season, and his 22.5% target share was a career low. For comparison, he hogged 29.9% of Tampa’s targets in 2016. Blame that on a loaded group of pass-catchers that includes DeSean Jackson, promising Chris Godwin and TEs Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. All of those guys return in 2018, so it’s tough to project Evans’ volume to rebound much.
Reasons for optimism
What should improve for Evans this season is better health from QB Jameis Winston, who missed 3 games and more than half of 2 others last year. Evans missed 1 of those on suspension but averaged 3.8 catches, 69.5 yards and .25 TDs in the other 4. His 12.2 PPR points per game in those outings would have ranked 26th among WRs.
In 11 games with a healthy Winston, Evans averaged 5.1 catches, 65.7 yards and .36 TDs. That’s 13.9 PPR points per game, which would have ranked 17th.
Evans is also a good bet for positive TD regression in 2018. While his TD totals yo-yoed over his first 3 years, he averaged 9 scores on an 11.3% TD rate. He scored just 5 times on a 7.0% TD rate last season. And it wasn’t for lack of opportunity. Evans ranked 8th among WRs in both red-zone targets (19) and targets inside the 10-yard line (9).
Before we wrap this up, let’s take a second to step back and remember how good Evans has been to open his NFL career. His 4,579 receiving yards through 4 seasons are the 6th most in league history behind only Randy Moss, Torry Holt, Jerry Rice, A.J. Green and Anquan Boldin. Evans ranks 10th all-time in catches (309) through 4 seasons and 24th in TDs (32).
Draft Sharks Bottom Line:
Evans was relatively disappointing last year, finishing 17th among WRs in PPR points and 22nd in non-PPR after going in the 1st round of most fantasy drafts. The culprits were plentiful: a drop in efficiency, a decline in volume and the loss of QB Jameis Winston for multiple games.
While the volume might not rebound much in a deep Bucs pass-catching corps, we are betting on a bounce back in efficiency from a 25-year-old WR whose NFL career is off to a brilliant start. Throw in a healthy Winston, who didn’t miss a game across his first 2 pro seasons, and Evans is plenty capable of climbing back into WR1 territory. He finished top-13 in PPR points and top-11 in non-PPR in 2 of his first 3 seasons.