In the history of the NFL, there have only been 27 players who have exceeded 3,000 total receiving yards over their first three professional seasons. Two of them will be on the field Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
The 2014 NFL draft is unquestionably one of the greatest of all time when it comes to producing star wideouts. Sammy Watkins was the first receiver drafted, at #4 overall by Buffalo; his career has been slowed by injuries but a fresh start is serving him well in San Francisco. After that, the Buccaneers jumped on Mike Evans at #7 and the Giants quickly followed with Odell Beckham at #12. Both of those picks have been unqualified successes.
The 2014 draft also brought Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Jarvis Landry, Kelvin Benjamin and Allen Robinson into the league, all stars in their own right. Later picks included Martavis Bryant, Donte Moncrief and John Brown.
Evans and Beckham have shared a field once before, when the Buccaneers played host to the Giants in November of 2015. New York took home the 32-18 win but the two receivers combined to put on quite a show. Beckham hauled in nine passes for 105 yards while Evans caught eight balls for 150 yards. The two combined for 36 of the 76 targets of quarterbacks Eli Manning and Jameis Winston on the day. On Sunday, the Giants visit Raymond James Stadium again, once again treating fans to what may eventually be the greatest pair of receivers ever drafted in the first round.
At the very least, Evans and Beckham have been the most prolific pair of receiver draft-mates ever through their combined first three seasons…and Landry makes a good case to call it a threesome. On that list of 27 NFL players who have breached 3,000 yards in only three years, there are five sets of draft-maters. None of the other four produced more than the Evans/Beckham duo in their first three years, and none had a third draft-mate join them in the club.*
|**Draft**||**Player #1**||**Rd./Pick**||**Player #2**||**Rd./Pick**||**Recs.**||**Yards**||**TDs**|
|2014||Mike Evans||1-7||Odell Beckham||1-12||526||7,700||62|
|1999||Torry Holt||1-6||David Boston||1-8||424||7,013||36|
|1985||Jerry Rice||1-16||Gary Clark||2-55||402||6,832||59|
|1978||James Lofton||1-6||John Jefferson||1-14||370||6,443||50|
|2009||Hakeem Nicks||1-29||Mike Wallace||3-84||373||6,240||48|
( In fact, the Beckham/Landry pair would rank second on this list and the Evans/Landry pair would rank fourth.)
*It's not surprising that Beckham and Evans are the most prolific pair on the list. They rank second and fifth, respectively, in receiving yards through a player's first three NFL seasons. Landry ranks 22nd. Here are the top 10:
Note that the first eight players on the list were all first-round draft picks. Of the 27 NFL players who had at least 3,000 receiving yards in their first three seasons, 16 were first-round picks and another seven were taken in either the second or third round. None were undrafted. The outlier here, at least in the modern era, is Marques Colston of New Orleans, a seventh-round pick who had exactly 3,000 yards after three seasons.
If Evans and Beckham have a rivalry, it's an affable one. Evans called Beckham a friend earlier this week and said he looks forward to seeing him again on Sunday. Still, they are traveling down nearly parallel paths to football immortality and their names are sure to be linked for years. Evans was asked to compare the two of them and he clearly had a lot of fun doing so.
"I think we are both great players," said the Buccaneers' Pro Bowler. "I'm a bit bigger. He's a bit faster. He's better after the catch. I'm a bigger guy – better at jump balls, probably. He plays with a lot of passion as well as I [do]. I think we play with a lot of swag in different areas. He's more of a dancer, I'm more of a tough guy."
Even statistically they each have their obvious strengths. Beckham's numbers are a bit better across the board, and he's played in three fewer games overall than has Evans, including this season. They've both been prolific scorers but Beckham has the edge in touchdowns. Despite Beckham's prowess in gaining yards after the catch, Evans has a higher career per-reception mark. Beckham has more 100-yard receiving games but Evans has produced more first downs, and at a higher percentage.
Here is where Evans and Beckham rank among all NFL wide receivers with at least 100 receptions since the start of the 2014 season in a variety of categories:
|**Category**||**Mike Evans**||**Odell Beckham**|
|Targets||6th (465)||5th (475)|
|Receptions||13th (252)||t-5th (301)|
|Receiving Yards||7th (2,738)||4th (4,237)|
|Touchdown Receptions||5th (28)||1st (37)|
|Yards Per Catch||12th (14.8)||28th (14.1)|
|100-Yard Games||t-9th (12)||3rd (19)|
|Receiving First Downs||4th (200)||5th (197)|
|Receiving First Down Pct.||1st (79.4)||30th (65.4)|
|25+-Yard Receptions||8th (33)||t-4th (39)|
|Yards After Catch (YAC)||not top 50||5th (1,622)|
|Avg. YAC per Catch||not top 50||14th (5.4)|
|Yards At Catch (Y@C)||3rd (3,115)||8th (2,615)|
|Avg. Y@C Per Reception||4th (12.4)||40th (8.7)|
Evans and Beckham might not account for 55% of all the passing yardage in this Sunday's game, as they did the last time the Giants and Buccaneers clashed, but then again, they might. Evans had the bigger numbers in the last clash but Beckham's team got the win. It's likely both will be instrumental to the outcome again this weekend. Moreover, they are both putting together the type of numbers that might eventually make them the most prolific pair of wide receiver draft-mates ever.