With a rookie wide receiver class loaded with as much talent as any group in a long time, there was certainly some immediate fantasy intrigue surrounding Buccaneers No. 7 draft pick Mike Evans. While wide receivers have been known to take a few years to really contribute worthy fantasy numbers, owners who took the risk and drafted these wideouts have been delighted to see every first round draft pick at the wide receiver position making an impact on their teams.
That's not to say there wasn't several questions surrounding each wide receiver coming in.
Sammy Watkins, a former Clemson WR and top draft pick at his position at the No. 4 spot, was dealt one of the tougher hands after being selected to a bad Buffalo Bills team with question marks all over their offense, especially at quarterback. Though he was the most talented player at his position, Watkins' fantasy value wasn't expected to really soar until the Bills could find a reliable arm to consistently get him the ball. That problem has since been solved with the addition of Kyle Orton, as Watkins has posted back-to-back efforts of at least 100 receiving yards and is on pace for over 1,000 yards in his rookie season.
Odell Beckham Jr., of LSU, was selected No. 12 overall on a talented New York Giants team with a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback. Still, Beckham Jr. was vying against a proven slot receiver in Victor Cruz and an up-and-coming wideout in Reuben Randle along the outside for targets. Also, the New York Giants have always played more of a team-oriented style of play, where victories are valued more so than big time individual player stats. After shaking off an early injury that sidelined him for a quarter of the season, Beckham Jr. has since been very productive and is coming off his best game as a pro which was a 156-yard effort against the Indianapolis Colts.
Brandin Cooks, another first round pick who was hailed as one of the fastest wideouts in the draft, landed in perhaps the best situation with future hall of fame quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. While Cooks occasionally gets overshadowed due to a large group of receivers that includes Marques Colston, Kenny Stills, Travaris Cadet and of course, Jimmy Graham, he has still proven to be a reliable fantasy target in his first year as well.
We haven't even mentioned guys like Kelvin Bejmain, Jordan Matthews, Allen Robinson or even Allen Hurns, but you get the point. This season has caused more fantasy owners to rethink the wide receiver position than any other, and Evans officially became one of biggest potential guys in fantasy football after last week.
Evans eclipsed 100 receiving yards in a game for the first time in his career against Cleveland, where he was targeted a season-high 11 times by sophomore quarterback Mike Glennon and finished with seven receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Evans got behind defenders with ease, and had plenty of big play opportunities even when he didn't actually convert on them. He showed great body control and made difficult catches over his shoulder look simple, and this is a guy who's still 21 years old and growing into his body.
On the season, Evans has four touchdowns and 490 receiving yards, which are both team highs. He averages a little over six fantasy points per week, which is fantastic for a WR3 or flex spot. To top it off, his consistent point totals of 3,4,5,13,12,7 and 24 have given him even more reliable production than Watkins, a guy who had four outings of 3 points or less.
How the Bucs' situation benefited Evans
For one, the Buccaneers only had one dominant receiver in Vincent Jackson, which left plenty of room for another guy to eat up targets but also gave Evans a veteran teammate who could show him the ropes. We've seen tandems like Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery show what a veteran in his prime can do when it comes to fast tracking the production of a younger player.
While an injury caused him to miss one game, Evans has lived up to all the hype surrounding him coming in and is making an impact on Tampa Bay every week. The only thing potentially stopping Evans from continuing his hot streak is the Buccaneers quarterback situation.
McCown's ups and downs
The Buccaneers acquired a quarterback in Josh McCown over the offseason from Chicago. A veteran who plays a bend-don't-break style, McCown looked competent enough at times in Chicago a season ago to really help Alshon Jeffery flourish into one of the NFL's best wide receivers. McCown finished 2013 with a shockingly efficient 13:1 touchdown-to-interception ration in eight games played.
The beginning of the 2014 season didn't start out to smooth for McCown though, as he threw for under 200 yards in his first two games and eventually injured his thumb against Atlanta in Week 3 which forced him to miss several weeks. But McCown is scheduled to be back for Week 10 and will start over Mike Glennon.
Bright future and schedule going forward
Over the next four games, the Buccaneers have some pretty favorable matchups. They play Atlanta in Week 10, a team that ranks 30th in passing yards allowed per game. They play Washington, a team that has surrendered 18 passing touchdowns so far, which is tied for second worst in the league. They also play Chicago and Cincinnati, two teams that rank in the bottom 12 in passing yards allowed.
As long as McCown plays more like the veteran we saw in Chicago, the sky is the limit for Evans.