Mike Evans needed just one season to convince his NFL peers that he's one of the elite players in the league.
On Wednesday, NFL Network continued its countdown of the "Top 100 Players of 2015" by revealing the players ranked in the 71-80 range. Evans, who turned in a superb rookie campaign for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being drafted seventh overall a year ago, came in at #75. The annual Top 100 list, which was first introduced in 2011, is based solely on votes from current NFL players.
Evans is the first Buccaneer this year to be revealed as part of the Top 100, which has counted from 100 down to 71 over the past three weeks. Last year, there were three Tampa Bay players on the list, with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy ranking 28th, linebacker Lavonte David following at #35 and wide receiver Vincent Jackson taking the 44th position.
This is good news for rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, the first overall pick in this year's draft. Winston begins his Buccaneer career throwing to two receivers who have been considered among the NFL's best the last two years. Jackson could still be among the other 70 players to be revealed over the next two months; he did, after all, record his fourth straight 1,000-yard season in 2014. Jackson also graced the 2013 list at #52 after his first season as a Buccaneer.
Jackson led the Buccaneers last fall with 70 receptions but his 1,002 yards were second to the 1,051 put up by Evans on 68 grabs. Evans also caught 12 touchdown passes in his debut campaign, setting a new franchise single-season record and tying for third among all NFL players in that category. Evans matched the New York Giants' Odell Beckham for first among rookies in TD catches and finished second behind Beckham in receiving yards.
Evans is the third 2014 rookie to be revealed in the Top 100 this year. Baltimore linebacker C.J. Mosley made his debut at #94 while St. Louis defensive tackle Aaron Donald came in at #92. There is actually some precedent to Buccaneer rookies getting Top 100 recognition in the offseason that follows. Mike Williams debuted at #83 in the spring of 2011 after his 964-yard, 11-TD rookie campaign in 2010. Doug Martin burst onto the NFL scene with 1,926 yards from scrimmage in 2012 and promptly got the 57th spot in the spring of 2013.