Gerald McCoy is placing himself among the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' all-time Pro Bowl greats. Mike Evans may be just be beginning that same process.
On Tuesday, the AFC and NFC squads for the 2017 Pro Bowl were announced, and McCoy and Evans will represent the Buccaneers. It is the fifth straight all-star selection for McCoy, while Evans gets his first such honor at the end of his third season. McCoy and Evans were both top-seven overall draft picks, in 2010 and 2014 respectively, and McCoy also waited until his third season to get his first Pro Bowl nod.
"My personal opinion [is], I thought Mike was automatic because this is Mike's third year in the NFL," said McCoy. "I made my first Pro Bowl in my third year, so I know kind of what he's feeling right now. I just see this happening for him, year-in and year-out. He's that good. My personal opinion, I think he's All-Pro as well. So we'll wait and see, but I'm happy for Mike."
Pictures of the Buccaneers' 2017 Pro Bowl selections.
McCoy's fifth selection ties for fifth-most in franchise history. The only Buccaneers to go more often include a trio of Hall of Famer defenders – Derrick Brooks (11), Warren Sapp (7) and Lee Roy Selmon (6) – and former fullback Mike Alstott (6).
Evans is the fifth Tampa Bay wide receiver to make the Pro Bowl and the first since Vincent Jackson in 2012. Evans, who was selected seventh overall in the 2014 draft, is just the second wideout drafted by Tampa Bay to represent the team in the all-star game. The first was Mark Carrier, a 1987 third-round pick who made it in 1989.
"It means a lot," said Evans of his selection. "This is for my teammates, it's not just for me. I couldn't have done it without them. It's a dream come true. As a little kid, you dream about making the Pro Bowl, and I got the nod. So I'm happy to be in the Pro Bowl this year."
The Bucs' two-man Pro Bowl contingent could grow by the time the game is played on January 19 in Orlando, Florida. Last year, Tampa Bay initially had two players – McCoy and running back Doug Martin – named to the team before they were eventually joined by three alternates: David, guard Logan Mankins and quarterback Jameis Winston.
If Alexander or Anger get the call it will be their first Pro Bowl selections. David could make it for the second straight year while Grimes has gone after each of the last three seasons and four times overall.
Evans and McCoy will represent the NFC, as the all-star game is going back to a battle between the two conferences after three years of an "unconferenced" experiment that split the players up via a captain's draft. It will also be very close to the Buccaneers' home, as the game has been moved to Orlando's Camping World Stadium.
"There's some added incentive because of the difference this year, it went back to NFC-AFC," said McCoy. "So we get to play for the NFC, face off against the AFC, but not only that, it's right up the street and our fans are right here. It would be great to go play a game, even just be around our fans. Our fans are what makes us who we are. It being in Orlando makes it even more incentive for me to go."
McCoy leads the Buccaneers with 7.0 sacks in 2016, tied for second among all NFL defensive tackles and just a half-sack behind leader Geno Atkins of the Cincinnati Bengals. McCoy and the Rams' Aaron Donald lead the NFC in that category, and the Buccaneers' star has also tallied 26 tackles, five tackles for loss, 13 quarterback pressures, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. McCoy is a driving force for a Buccaneers' defense that ranks second in the NFL over the last six weeks with 15.0 points allowed per game.
McCoy is just the fifth player in team history, joining Brooks, Sapp and Alstott, to be selected to five consecutive Pro Bowls. He has tallied 38.5 sacks in that span, second-most among all defensive tackles behind the 40 recorded by Atkins.
"It's tough to be considered one of the best in the world, at the highest level, year-in and year-out," said McCoy. "It takes a lot of work. It's not easy, but I don't really want to talk about me, I want to talk about my teammates and the people around me who have made this possible. I love my brothers on the defensive side of the ball, especially the guys up front and the guys on the back end covering so we can make the plays we make. It's just a blessing altogether and you never want to take it for granted."
Evans has recorded a career-high 84 receptions for 1,159 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He ranks fifth in the NFL and third in the NFC in both catches and yards, while tying for third in the NFL and second in the NFC in scoring grabs. Evans and fellow 2014 first-round pick Odell Beckham of the New York Giants are just the fourth and fifth players in NFL history to start their careers with three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons.
Evans could break a variety of franchise receiving records in his third season, but he's more focused on the Bucs' current chase for a playoff spot.
"The Pro Bowl's a great accomplishment but I'm worried about the upcoming games," he said. "I'm really focused on New Orleans and that's where my mind is right now."