We all know how good Mike Evans has been for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his nine year career he has put up nine consecutive seasons of 1000+ yards receiving. That is not only the most in Bucs history, but the most in NFL history to start a career.
Evans has already established himself as one of the all-time great Buccaneers and will surely be in the ring of honor one day. However, for a player of his caliber, he should have his sights set higher. Mike Evans belongs in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
With that said, if he retired today, I don’t think he would get in. While Evans greatness has been undeniable, his résumé just doesn’t measure up to this point. There is still work to be done for him. The question is when will he cement his résumé?
There are two benchmark numbers I believe Evans needs to hit to get into the Hall of Fame. The first is 14,000 receiving yards and the second is 100 touchdowns. Both seem like clear cut offs for previous Hall of Famers.
Eight of 11 players to hit 14,000+ yards are already in the Hall of Fame with Larry Fitzgerald waiting to be eligible. Eight of the 10 players with 100+ touchdowns are already in the Hall of Fame, with Fitzgerald and Antonio Gates coming in the next few years. That means 16 of 19 eligible players to reach one of these numbers have made the cut.
Evans has a good chance to reach both of these numbers in the next three years. The best part is he only has to maintain what he’s already doing to get there.
I did some quick math.
To get to these benchmarks, Evans needs to score 19 more touchdowns and catch 3,525 more receiving yards. This means over the next three years he would need to average 1,175 yards and 6.34 touchdowns per year.
That would put Evans at 13th all time in receiving yards just above Cris Carter and only five yards away from passing James Lofton for 12th all time. It would also put him at 9th all time and receiving touchdowns, tying Tim Brown and James Largent. Obviously, being in this company is rarefied air and certainly Hall of Fame worthy.
An impressive pace
To be in the top 15 in both receiving yards in receiving touchdowns is impressive, regardless of the length of career. However, at the pace laid out previously, Evans would accomplish this feat in just 12 years. This should erase any notion that this accomplishment is a longevity award.
For comparison sake, this would give him more receiving yards than Marvin Harrison through 12 seasons and more touchdowns than Larry Fitzgerald through 12 seasons. Other big time names such as Julio Jones fall well short of this touchdown milestone in more years played.
Comparing the time it would take Evans to reach these numbers compared to others plays in his favor. For example, it took seventeen seasons for Tim Brown to reach 100 touchdown receptions. Steve Smith didn’t reach 14,000 yards until his sixteenth season in the NFL. That makes Evans pace significantly faster.
Of course, there is always the possibility that Evans exceeds this pace. The more likely category that he would be able to do this is in touchdowns. This would only enhance his resume.
Let’s say that Evans gets 10 touchdowns each of the next three seasons (something he has done in half of his seasons played). This would tie him with Tony Gonzalez with 111 receiving touchdowns which is 8th all time. This would give Evans the same amount of touchdowns as maybe the greatest tight end of all time in five fewer seasons played.
It’s a shame that Evans is often overlooked when talking about the best pass catchers in the league today. Too often he is criticized for not leading the league in receiving yards or not being elite in any one area. But make no mistake, he is putting together one of the elite receiving careers in NFL history.
If and when Evans breaks the 14,000 yard and 100 touchdown barrier, he will join an elite group. Only six players in NFL history have reached both of these milestones. These included the likes of Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, and Terrell Owens.
As good as Evans has been so far, he is still yet to turn 30 years old. He has plenty left in the tank to solidify his place among the all time greats. The next few years will not only establish his hall of fame resume, but as one of the five to ten best receivers to ever play the game.