The addition of DeSean Jackson in free agency gives the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a potentially lethal starting wide receiver duo, as 23-year-old Pro Bowler Mike Evans is coming off a 96-catch, 12-touchdown season. Still, there is room for more newcomers on the Buccaneers' wideout depth chart, particularly with the free agency departure of Russell Shepard.
Mike Evans has an idea for that receiving corps: Make it a Texas A&M reunion.
That could literally be the case if former Canadian Football League standout Derel Walker makes the most of his second crack at the NFL. Evans and Walker were the primary targets for quarterback Johnny Manziel in 2013, on an A&M offense that averaged more than 44 points per game. Evans led the Aggies with 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns on 69 receptions; Walker was second with 51 grabs for 818 yards and five scores. The following spring, Evans was drafted seventh overall by the Buccaneers and Manziel went to the Browns at #22. Walker was not drafted, perhaps in part due to a 4.65-second showing in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, but he signed as a rookie free agent with the Tennessee Titans.
While Evans went on to immediate stardom, topping 1,000 yards as a rookie and scoring 12 touchdowns, Walker found himself waived by the Titans near the end of the preseason. His next move was to try the CFL, and that proved to be an excellent career choice. Over the next two seasons, Walker racked up huge numbers for the Edmonton Eskimos: 198 catches for 2,699 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Eskimos let him out of his contract a few weeks early this winter so he could rekindle his NFL dreams, and seven different teams gave him a tryout in December and January.
WATCH: MONDAY'S PRESS CONFERENCES
Walker chose Tampa Bay, signing a reserve/futures contract on January 6. That put him and Evans back in the same uniform, and Evans thinks his former Aggie teammate could help the Buccaneers, particularly because he's added strength in the years since he left College Station.
"He looks a lot better," said Evans. "He's different than he was in college. He's one of my best friends. He was a groomsmen in my wedding; love him to death. He can go up and get the ball, he's sneaky athletic and he's sneaky fast. His 40 time doesn't show how fast he is. He plays real fast, strong hands, and he's one of the hardest workers I've been around."
Even back in 2014, Walker's scouting report agreed with much of Evans's assessment – strong hands, good route-runner, works the middle of the field well. And while he didn't necessarily impress with his 40-yard dash, Walker did very well in the vertical leap.
The same is true of the man who succeeded Evans as the top pass-catcher at Texas A&M, Josh Reynolds. Like Walker, Reynolds transferred to A&M after a stint at a junior college and was immediately productive at the next level. He capped a strong three-year run with the Aggies last year with 61 receptions for 1,039 yards and 12 touchdowns. He had a good week at the Senior Bowl and, unlike Walker before him, was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, where he ran a 4.52-second 40 and reached 37 inches on his vertical leap. Many analysts have Reynolds pegged as a potential third or fourth-round pick.
Evans would likely endorse the idea of making it three former Aggies in the Bucs' receiving room, though he did bring up one other name when asked about the draft prospects in general: Washington's John Ross, who ran an incredible 4.22-second 40 in Indianapolis.
"I watched every A&M game," said Evans. "Josh Reynolds, he obviously stands out. [He's] very consistent, strong hands, can track the deep ball. John Ross, he broke Chris Johnson's record, and I thought that would never be broken, so that obviously stands out to me."
Walker still has an uphill battle to stick in the NFL his second time around, but he's got a built-in support system at One Buccaneer Place. That would be true of Reynolds, too, if the Buccaneers chose to call his name in the draft this weekend.