By: Nicholas Sigman (Twitter: @NicSigman)
Mike Evans vs. OBJ
Do Numbers Explain the True Value?
This off-season has seen a lot of comparisons between OBJ and Mike Evans. This is obviously because Evans has passed OBJ in fantasy points for the first time since they were both drafted in 2014. It goes back and forth with little actual investigation into why Evans has begun to dominate as a fantasy WR. Below you’ll see my investigation and who I believe to be the better Dynasty WR.
To truly understand each receiver we have to understand their situation. First let us look into what has been happening with their teams since they’ve been drafted.
OBJ was drafted by a team with much more opportunity. Looking back at 2014 the Buccaneers were still trying to look relevant. Being led by two-time Superbowl winning QB Eli Manning gave OBJ the step up on Evans from the beginning. OBJ busted onto the scene, after missing the first four games of the season, with an insane 108.8 yards per game and a 70% catch rate. How could you not immediately want him on your Dynasty team? Then the next year he performed to everyone’s expectations – recording 1450 yds and 13 TDs. His catch rate did dip to a more reasonable 60.76%, but still above average. In 2016 Ben McAdoo took the reigns as HC of the Giants previously being the OC from 2014-2015. OBJ’s production didn’t drop by too much, but the concerning factor is his workload had increased with a decrease in overall production.
Before the 2016 season OBJ was going to be the consensus top dynasty WR. The now 24 year old still has plenty of time to show you he can be a hall of famer, and if he continues on this path he will be. Mike Evans, taken in the same draft as OBJ, hasn’t had the same recognition. Going to a team that has been in limbo since winning the Superbowl over 10 years ago, he had a rough start. In 2014 he began under Lovie with Glennon/McCown at QB. Even with this hodgepodge of a team he still performed as a WR1. With the Buccaneers drafting Jameis you could see the potential Jameis/Evans combo for years to come. Unfortunately, Jameis didn’t have the best start to a season with a TD rate of 1.375 per game. Thankfully 2016 was a year of true growth for the Buccaneers. Dirk Koetter, the previous OC, was hired to bring the Bucs into relevance, and that he did finishing the season 9-7.
Comparing the Wide Receivers by the Numbers
Above are the raw stats for each receiver over the past three years. You can see OBJ has been given a higher average amount of targets and given his higher catch rate you can see why he’s had more production. It should be noted he’s also had an ever-increasing target rate with a declining catch rate. Evans, as @TheMrGhee had pointed out, has an ever-increasing target and reception rate that can not continue to rise as it has over the past three years. That would be insane.
You can also assess that OBJ has had more yards than Evans every year they’ve played, but one could make the argument that the Giants had given OBJ more opportunities because of the team’s higher attempt rates. And that is exactly what I want to look into.
I have adjusted the team passing attempts for the Buccaneers to be the same as the Giants. Keeping the same target and catch percentage – everything else changed. OBJ still has more receptions and yards per year, but as you can see the difference is not as large when the Buccaneers had the same number of attempts.
Adjusting the total passing attempts may seem like a stretch ,but when looking at the team’s progression it is necessary. In 2014, Evans had two different QBs on a team with a first year head coach. It was a terrible year with a finish of 2-14. With the drafting of Jameis Winston there was hope that the passing game would improve. It did improve, but the pass attempts were still 88 less than the Giants. This can be attributed to Jameis becoming comfortable with the NFL, and the Buccaneers’ inability to score touchdowns. 2016 rolls around and we see the promotion of Dirk Koetter from OC to HC. He took the team and increased the number of passing attempts by 43 in one year. That’s roughly an entire game of attempts added to their season total.
The point I’m trying to make is through the years Evans has been on a team that hasn’t been performing as well with no fault to him. OBJ has been given every opportunity to succeed and has done so. Now comparatively, you can see that OBJ does have slightly better stats in terms of receptions, yards, and yards per reception. These aren’t the only stats that are important in fantasy football, though. Touchdowns may be one of the most important values.
I have accounted for the touchdowns scored by each player, their share of those touchdowns, and their share of those touchdowns through the air. Other than Jameis’ first year in the NFL, Evans has had a higher share of touchdowns than OBJ. This combined with the fact that the Buccaneers have a more competitive number of total passing attempts, I believe Evans will pass OBJ next year in total fantasy points yet again.
In dynasty fantasy football you have to think about the long game with players like these. With Eli Manning, 36, reaching the end of his career soon, OBJ owners may find the Winston/Evans connection to be more efficient and reliable in the years to come.