Oct 19, 2013; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A

2014 NFL Draft: Is Mike Evans A Better "Fit" In St. Louis Than Sammy Watkins?


Despite the drafting of several “highly ranked” wide receiver prospects over the last two years, the St. Louis Rams still seem to find themselves searching for one player to step up and be “the guy” within the passing attack. Obviously, the search was somewhat stalled by the injury to Sam Bradford, giving the two rookies, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, limited passing attempts to show their worth on the football field. To be fair, the West Virginia stars were able to pick up their production towards the end of the season. Tavon Austin put together a historical run of lengthy touchdown scores before his ankle injury, and Stedman Bailey was likely the Rams more reliable receiver for the final four weeks of the regular season. Still, you will find few in Rams Nation that are not clamoring for another receiver in the 2014 NFL Draft…

Most of that focus has been heaped on Sammy Watkins, the dynamo Clemson receiver that put the Tigers on the map early in the season. He did nothing to dissuade this “top prospect” label in his final game of the season, putting up 227 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. However, does he really “fit” what the St. Louis Rams need?

First, we should figure out what they do have! Tavon Austin is the man in the slot, whose catches mostly came around the line of scrimmage or on short drag route in the open field. You could call him our “yards after the catch” player. Chris Givens is the “take the top off” receiver, who also handles a bulk of the screen passes. However, Givens dropped off significantly in production this season, and was a shell of his ’12 former-self. Stedman Bailey proved to be a reliable possession receiver on the outside. Then, there is the rest…

Austin Pettis and Brian Quick were both “meh,” for lack of a better term. Both had their moments on the field, but neither truly contributed on a game-by-game basis (not that any receiver did last season). Having to put a label on them, you would probably consider Pettis to be most comfortable as a No.3, inside receiver, who could also effective in the red zone. Brian Quick is the stereotypical No.1 receiver, but has yet to play like it.

So, what are they missing?

Last season, it was someone that could 1) make receptions down the field, 2) reliably play on the outside, 3) can block, both in the screen game and on stretch/outside runs, and 4) can consistently catch the football.

Earlier this morning, a dedicated Rams fan (shoutout to Anthony Khoury) sent me a link to an article on Rotoworld.com. The piece by Greg Peshek detailed several key metrics for the Top 4 receivers in the 2014 draft class. In those, he listed a) where the receivers caught the ball, b) what they did after the catch, c) which ending routes they caught the ball on, and d) how well they caught the ball.

Looking for the missing piece in the St. Louis Rams offense, you would naturally think of someone who was big time down the field and did not drop the ball. The player with the best combination of those two metrics was… Texas A&M’s Mike Evans.

According to their figures, Evans caught 25.37% of this passes 20+ yards down the field, topping Sammy Watkins, Kelvin Benjamin, and Marquis Lee (i.e. the other top prospects) in that category. Despite that extremely high percentage, roughly 11% higher than the average college receiver, Evans drop percentage was a surprisingly low 4.29%; the lowest of the four receivers. If that wasn’t enough, he also managed an impressive 7.63 yards after the catch, trailing only Sammy Watkins, at 8.48 yards. However, considering the 57.43% of Watkins catches were off the screen, the number for Evans is nearly mindblowing.

Looking deeper into the reliance on the screen game for Watkins, one could naturally presume that his production, to some extent, will be dependent on his supporting cast’s ability to block on the outside; whereas, with Evans, his production should simply (or not so simply) depend on his ability to get open down the field and the quarterbacks ability to get him the football.

Obviously, Watkins and Evans play in vastly different offenses, with vastly different quarterbacks, against vastly different competition. However, if you are on the same page with us about what the St. Louis Rams “need” in their wide receiving corps, one could certainly make the case that Rams Nation should be shifting our attention to Mike Evans.

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  • Corey Casey

    Lol at this. You would honestly rather have Evans then Watkins.

    • Nathan Kearns

      What is your argument to the contrary? Specifically, which fits the Rams better and why?

      • Corey Casey

        Sammy Watkins according to Kiper and Mcshay have a similar grade coming out to A.J Green. The rams are still big on Brian Quck basically the same type of receiver as Evans. The rams need that elite number 1 on the outside Watkins fits that. Watkins is just what this offense needs. Not to mention their are concerns about Evans speed and ability to seperate.

        • Nathan Kearns

          Have the same grade doesn’t mean they are the same type of player.

        • Nathan Kearns

          Having the same grade doesn’t mean they are the same type of player. Obviously, you did not read the article or what Watkins play this season if you think he is a “true, No.1″ type of receiver

          • Nathan Kearns

            Watch* not what

    • kyle

      Well after reading this then yes I’m sure alot of rams fans would enjoy the idea of a wide out regularly catching passes of over 20 yards and I know Damn well we are tired of seeing all the drop balls which obviously evans doesn’t do so yea you need to look at our needs just because someone is the best at there position doesn’t mean they Nessisarilly fit our needs

  • Gary Stewart

    whats not mentioned is the fact that evans could come for a later draft pick, which could also prove important. say for instance the rams trade down to 5-6 with atl or oak both potential candidates for clowney and oakland may even decide on a qb. if the rams have decided on watkins they would not dare slip any lower. so they take #6 pick a 2nd rounder and maybe a future 2nd or 3 rd round pick in 2015 for the #2 pick, but if evans was on their radar they could trade the #6 with say tennessee for their #11 knowing that with the likes of evans mack mosely robinson and watkins likely still available at #6 at least one of them would surely be there at #11. and the most likely candidate would be evans. while there is no guarantee evans is there if they miss him they get one of the consolation prizes and in the trade down with tennessee from 6 to 11 gather up say an extra 2 and a 4th or 5th rounder to boot. so thinking evans may lead to an extra 2nd round pick and an extra corner or safety

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  • Neal Ebner

    forget it Evans is a Lion.. Take your Sammy Watkins

  • Casey

    Good article! I just simply believe that Evans is a batter fit, I also think that Evans will show up big at the combine and show scouts and fans that he can run good routes. Which some people say that he is not a good route runner.

  • Andrew Spinoso

    Great we can get another “project” so Quick can have a friend on the bench. Perfect thinking!

    • Nathan Kearns

      Forgot how similar they were… both playing in small conferences, against poor competition, and both graded out as Top 10 prospects in their draft class… oh wait!

      • Andrew Spinoso

        You are right! Manzel was a great scrambling quarterback just like Bradford. Perfect to utilize Evan’s breakaway speed! Also, Evans got to compete against all that 6ft cornerback coverage just like the NFL! So I guess you are right. He will not be a project and will be a day one starter that we need so bad. It’s also great that our O line is sooo great too, this way we can make sure Bradford gets 10 seconds to through and scramble each play.
        Not sure who’s worse: you or Wagoner at ESPN