Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans finished third in the NFL in receiving yards in 2018, broke the franchise record in that category and averaged a robust 17.7 yards per catch. Those are clearly Pro Bowl-worthy credentials, and as of Monday they officially belonged to a 2018 NFL all-star.
Evans was named to the Pro Bowl on Monday, replacing Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones, who will be unable to participate in the January 27 all-star game due to injury. Evans was originally designated a first alternate when the Pro Bowl rosters were announced on December 19.
The only slightly-delayed honor for Evans gave him yet another franchise milestone: He is now the first wide receiver to make the Pro Bowl multiple times as a Buccaneer. Evans first went to the all-star game following the 2016 season, in which he caught 96 passes for 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns. He eclipsed that yardage total this past season, with a team-record 1,524, and he did it on 10 fewer catches, as his per-reception average was the third-highest in league history among players with at least 85 grabs.
In the process, Evans blew past the Buccaneers' previous single-season record in that category, set by Mark Carrier in his Pro Bowl campaign of 1989. Carrier was the first Tampa Bay wideout to get a Pro Bowl invite; he was later followed by Keyshawn Johnson in 2001, Keenan McCardell in 2003 and Vincent Jackson in 2012. Evans now holds the Buccaneers career and single-season records in both receiving yards and touchdown receptions. He didn't match his team-record 12 touchdowns in 2018 but finished with a flurry, scoring three times in the last two games to finish with eight on the year.
Evans was second in the NFC in receiving yards behind only Jones, who led the league with 1,677. Houston's DeAndre Hopkins, who will play for the AFC in the Pro Bowl, was second with 1,572. The only qualifying players to finish with a higher per-catch average than the Buccaneers' star were teammate DeSean Jackson (18.9) and former New England wideout Josh Gordon (18.00).
Evans will join Green Bay's Davante Adams, Minnesota's Adam Thielen and New Orleans' Michael Thomas, on the NFC squad, comprising a very dangerous quartet of pass-catchers for the conference. Adam's led the conference in touchdown receptions with 13, Thomas was first in the NFL with 125 catches and Thielen racked up 113 receptions, 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns.
Evans joined the Buccaneers as the seventh-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He's now made the Pro Bowl at the end of two of his first five seasons, which have been almost uniformly outstanding. In fact, he is now just the third player in league history, along with Randy Moss and A.J. Green, to begin his career with five straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Evans, who only turned 25 during last year's training camp, has 6,103 career receiving yards, the sixth most by any NFL player in his first five seasons.
Evans won't have far to go to play in his second Pro Bowl, as this year's game will once again be held in Orlando at Camping World Stadium. He is currently the only Buccaneer representative on the squad, though defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was also identified as an alternate in December. The selection of Evans means the Buccaneers will not be lacking representation in the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2009.