Is This the Year Mike Evans Falls Out of the Top-20 Fantasy Football WRs?

Mike Evans is one of the NFL’s top wideouts of the past decade. But he’ll face perhaps the toughest challenge of his career in 2023. With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers trying to remain competitive in the post-Tom Brady era, can Evans remain a dependable top-20 fantasy football WR?

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Mike Evans’ Recent Seasons

When his career ends, Evans might be listed among the all-time greatest wide receivers. He’s currently No. 45 in receiving yards, thanks to a seemingly impossible nine consecutive 1,000+ yard campaigns to begin his career. If he plays three more seasons and nets merely 900 yards per year, he’d likely be on the top 20 all-time list and within easy striking distance of the top 12.

This is the magic of the highly consistent Evans, who’s missed an average of only one game per year. If you look up “dependability” in the dictionary, you won’t see his picture. But if someday you do, you’ll know why.

To be clear, Evans also has benefitted by playing several seasons in almost comically pass-happy offenses. The Bucs led the league in pass attempts in each of the past two seasons, and they’ve been top-six every other year since 2017.

And what happened the year before that, when Tampa Bay was merely a “middling” passing team? Evans led the league with 173 targets, resulting in an astronomical 30% team target share. No other Buc enjoyed half his targets or half his receiving yards.

Mike Evans’ 2023 Expectations

So in recent years, Evans has thrived in an environment where passes came early and often. Last year, for example, the median number of team throws was approximately 33.6 per game. Tampa Bay averaged 44.2. That’s not just a significant difference. That’s earth-shattering.

With Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask at the helm this season, we should expect a massive decline in passing volume, as well as productivity. Even with his talent waning, Brady could feed multiple receivers per game. But it remains to be seen if Mayfield or Trask can consistently feed even one.

Evans will need to work harder to get his 10th straight 1,000+ yard season. As long as he stays healthy, it’s doable. But it’s no better than a 50/50 proposition on a team that might not surpass 3,500 passing yards.

If this team had cleaned house in the offseason, then perhaps Evans could have returned to his high-target-share roots. Instead, he still must contend with star Chris Godwin, the serviceable Russell Gage, and ascending tight end Cade Otton.

Fortunately, there’s not much depth beyond that “big four.” Sixth-round rookie Trey Palmer’s speed might result in sporadic usage. But the good news for managers drafting Evans is that they don’t have to worry about a young hot shot stepping up and pushing for three or four looks per week.

So let’s do some simple math. If Tampa throws 600 times this season — still a fairly high number by NFL standards — then it would mark a drop-off of nine attempts per game compared to last year. If Evans enjoys the same target share, then it would equate to a decline of 26 targets if he once again plays 15 games. At 17 games, perhaps he could push for a decline of only about 10 targets.

Next, consider a potential drop in efficiency. Again, Mayfield and Trask are not on Brady’s level. That doesn’t need to be spelled out. Yet it’s key to understanding Evans’ lower-than-usual ceiling.

Last season, the overall WR20 was Michael Pittman Jr., who compiled a 99-925-4 receiving line as the clear-cut No. 1 receiver in a weak passing attack. Teammate Parris Campbell was next-best on the team as the WR48.

It’s hard to imagine this year’s Bucs supporting two top-20 WRs or even two top-30 WRs. The younger Godwin has been a far more effective pass catcher over the years and has averaged more targets per game in each of the last three seasons. There’s a good chance that Godwin will be the leading fantasy scorer on this team.

As a result, Evans is on the outside looking in at another high-impact campaign. He should finish in the top 30. But assuming this passing attack returns to pre-2017 levels, Evans is no longer a certifiable weekly fantasy starter and shouldn’t be counted on to produce top-20 numbers.

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