Tampa Bay Buccaneers

One Buc Mailbag: Looking Ahead

This week's mailbag considers a hypothetical trade involving the first pick in the draft, then moves on to second-year wide receivers and Buccaneer Ivy Leaguers

Each week during the offseason, Senior Writer/Editor Scott Smith will dip into the inbox to answer questions from  Buccaneer fans.  This week, the fans start discussions on a blockbuster trade concept, Mike Evans' upcoming second NFL season and the history of Ivy Leaguers on the Bucs' all-time roster .*

Fans can submit questions for upcoming mailbags via Twitter to @ScottSBucs (#BucsMailbag), through a message on the Buccaneers Official Facebook Page or via email at tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com.  The One Buc Mailbag runs every Thursday and is not necessarily meant to reflect the opinions of the team's management or coaching staff.*1. Hey Scott-If the rumors are true that the Saints are trying to unload Drew Brees, I would totally, without a second thought, send our number one pick to New Orleans. Wouldn't you?Phil Schwadron, via email to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com

I've mention that these are my opinions, right? You read that little disclaimer in italics above? What we have here is Phil asking for my opinion on a hypothetical situation he has proposed. What we do not have here, in any form, is the Buccaneers organization saying that it would or would not like to trade for Drew Brees. That would be tampering and we can't have that.

Okay, so we're all clear on that? Great. Then here's my answer:

OF COURSE I would have a second thought before doing a deal like that. Phil, you're saying that you wouldn't even take a few minutes to consider all the factors? If you're supposed to be the GM here, that seems a little delinquent to me. You're talking about adding a player with a $20 million salary (roughly) to your payroll. You've got to at least mull that over for a bit.

Behind the scenes photos from Buccaneers vs. Saints at Raymond James Stadium.

And, honestly Phil, I don't make that deal after I've mulled it over. First, let's make one thing abundantly clear: Drew Brees has been and still is a marvelous quarterback. He's a Hall of Famer, and when he threw for a whopping 4,962 yards last year that was his LOWEST total in four seasons. He has a career completion percentage of 66.2% and last year his passer rating was 97.0. I thought it was funny last season when there were some rumblings that he was slowing down. I fully expect Brees to be one of the league's best quarterbacks again in 2015.

That said, Drew Brees is also a 36-year-old quarterback who, again, is due about $20 million each of the next two years. Forget the Buccaneers; I have a hard time imagining any team trading the first-overall pick in the draft – with (depending on how sold you are) one or two potential franchise quarterbacks available to be picked – for a player of that description, even if it is Drew Brees. Sure that #1 overall pick isn't necessarily going to pan out, but those are the risks you have to take sometimes as a team architect. The reward – possibly getting that crazy-elusive "franchise quarterback" in place – is so great that you have to try. You can have that, or you can have two years of control over a 36-year-old player who is going to eat up a large chunk of your salary cap.

2. Scott,What do you think Mike Evans will do in his SECOND year? This isn't a fantasy football question. Well, it's kinda a fantasy football question-I don't want to be taking another year two Michael Clayton-but I really care more for what it means for the Buccaneers. Do you think he can do even better than he did as a rookie? Would you expect him to take more catches away from V-Jack this year?Thanks. Mark Clifford, via email to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com

I think this is the first time this offseason I've been asked about Mike Evans. It's mostly been the quarterback situation, the offensive line and the secondary. The D-Line and linebackers here and there. I've been asked about Orie Lemon, Kevin Pamphile and Robert Herron, but not Mike Evans.

And I guess that's a positive thing. The starting receivers are one spot that most Buccaneer fans feel very comfortable about, and for good reason. While it is possible that a breakout rookie receiver will fail to live up to his first-season standards – and in fact, that happened with the last Tampa Bay first-round receiver, as Mark notes – there's nothing from Evans' first campaign or his current situation that would suggest that being likely in 2015.

Really, a great first season for an NFL wide receiver is usually the sign of what will be a great career. Below, you'll see a chart of the 34 receivers in league history who have topped 900 receiving yards as a rookie. I went with 900 as the cutoff because there are only 19 players who have crossed 1,000 as a rookie, and three of them happened last year, so I wanted the sample size to be a bit bigger. This chart shows not only what each of those 34 did as rookies, but what followed in their next two seasons. Check it out:

Player

Year

Team

Rookie

2nd Yr.

3rd Yr.

Bill Groman

1960

HOU

1473

1175

328

Anquan Boldin

2003

ARI

1377

623

1402

Randy Moss

1998

MIN

1313

1413

1437

Odell Beckham

2014

NYG

1305

tbd

tbd

Billy Howton

1952

GB

1231

463

768

Michael Clayton

2004

TB

1193

372

356

Terry Glenn

1996

NE

1132

431

792

Bill Brooks

1986

IND

1131

722

867

Harlon Hill

1954

CHI

1124

789

1128

Ernest Givins

1986

HOU

1062

933

976

A.J. Green

2011

CIN

1057

1350

1426

Mike Evans

2014

TB

1051

tbd

tbd

Keenan Allen

2013

SDG

1046

783

tbd

Joey Galloway

1995

SEA

1039

987

1049

Marques Colston

2006

NO

1038

1202

760

Cris Collinsworth

1981

CIN

1009

700

1130

Kelvin Benjamin

2014

CAR

1008

tbd

tbd

Bob Hayes

1965

DAL

1003

1232

998

John Jefferson

1978

SD

1001

1090

1340

Dwayne Bowe

2007

KC

995

1022

589

Kevin Johnson

1999

CLE

986

669

1097

Sammy Watkins

2014

BUF

982

tbd

tbd

Eddie Royal

2008

DEN

980

345

627

Andre Johnson

2003

HOU

976

1142

688

Mike Williams

2010

TB

964

771

996

Julio Jones

2011

ATL

959

1198

580

Eddie Brown

1985

CIN

942

964

608

Jerry Rice

1985

SF

927

1570

1078

Gary Clark

1985

WAS

926

1265

1066

Eddie Kennison

1996

STL

924

404

234

Paul Warfield

1964

CLE

920

30

741

DeSean Jackson

2008

PHI

912

1156

1056

Jimmy Orr

1958

PIT

910

604

541

Sammy White

1976

MIN

906

760

741

Now, before really diving into the numbers, just take a big-picture look at those names. The majority of this list is comprised of players ranging from stars to superstars to bona fide Hall of Famers (three of them, in fact). Who wouldn't want to be in the company of Jerry Rice, Paul Warfield, Bob Hayes, Randy Moss, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Gary Clark, Andre Johnson, John Jefferson, Cris Collinsworth, Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn…and on and on.

If you think that some of the numbers for these players second and third years throw up a minor red flag, be aware that a good amount of those figures are misleading. Most of the players who dipped noticeably in their second or third years did so because they missed significant time due to injury. That includes Anquan Boldin, Billy Howton and Paul Warfield in their Year Twos as well as Marques Colston, Dwayne Bowe, Andre Johnson and Julio Jones in their Year Threes. Terry Glenn was limited by injuries in both his second and third seasons. In addition, Cris Collinsworth and Bill Brooks saw their second seasons shortened by player strikes, and the same thing happened to Eddie Brown in Year Three.

A look back at Mike Evans' rookie season in Tampa Bay.

Clearly, injuries can happen to a player at any position, at any point of his career, so that possibility has to be factored in to any projection for Evans…or Beckham, Benjamin or Watkins, as well. Assuming and obviously hoping that Evans stays healthy, we can hope for the kind of trajectory enjoyed by John Jefferson or A.J. Green. I do not expect that having Vincent Jackson on the other end of the line for at least another season will have a negative effect on Evans. You mentioned fantasy football, and this is a philosophy I usually employ in that game: I think it's a good thing when a player has other strong offensive players on his team. It makes the whole offense better, increasing the opportunities for everyone. Last year, Evans had slightly more yards than Jackson despite Jackson getting 142 targets to the rookie's 122. I wouldn't be surprised to see that target ratio even out this year, or perhaps even swing somewhat in Evans favor. That should help his numbers, as well.

The cautionary note is an obvious question: Will the Buccaneers' offense be improved in 2015? There may be a rookie quarterback at the helm. There's a new offensive coordinator in town, though he's far from an unknown commodity. (Dirk Koetter certainly has experience coordinating a prolific passing attack featuring two outstanding starting receivers from his days in Atlanta.) The offensive line is still something of a question mark.

A look back at WR Mike Evans' pro day at Texas A&M. Evans went on to be the Buccaneers 1st round pick (7th overall) in the 2014 NFL Draft.

All in all, I think the signs point to a mild increase for Evans. I say "mild" in part because the bar is already set pretty high, so even that improvement would put Evans solidly among the game's elite receivers. That's good news for the Bucs and, possibly, your fantasy team, Mark.

One more note, apropos of nothing: I think the strangest career of all the receivers on that list belonged to Eddie Kennison. As you can see, he fell off after that first 900-yard season, and his numbers remained low for a while. Yet, there were a couple 1,000-yard seasons in his future, about a decade into his career. During the six-year span from his second to seventh season, Kennison averaged almost exactly 500 receiving yards per campaign. Then, for five years from #8 to #12, he averaged just under 1,000 yards. Weird.

3. I know Cameron Brate, the tight end, got into a couple games last year, and he's from Harvard. Is he the first Ivy League player the Bucs have had?Thanks, Scott. Alan Carr, via email to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com

A countdown of the top 50 overall players in the 2015 NFL Draft as ranked by NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah.(Note: this list has been updated to reflect Jeremiah's most recent rankings.)

Cameron Brate is not the first Ivy League player to perform for the Bucs in the regular season, or even the second or third. He's not even the first Ivy League tight end to play for the team. He is the first Harvard product with that distinction, and with his five games played last year he's actually pretty far up on the leader board.

Getting Brate on the field means the Bucs have now suited up at least one player from six of the eight Ivy League schools, with only Dartmouth and Penn shut out. Yale has the volume lead, with two of its players seeing regular-season action for the Buccaneers.

The king of the Ivy League Bucs is former offensive lineman Tom McHale, a Cornell product who played in 59 games and started 30 from 1987 through 1992. That's 45 more games and 29 more starts than the other five players on the Ivy League list combined. One of those five was Princeton quarterback Jason Garrett, now the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, who was on the roster for part of 2004 but did not get into a game.

Who does NFL.com's Charles Davis believe are the most underrated prospects in this year's draft class?

After McHale, Yale tight end Nate Lawrie is next with seven games played during the 2004-05 season. Yale was also the first Ivy League school to produce a Buccaneer, as a defensive back named Don Martin got into one game in the franchise's inaugural season of 1976. Brown and Columbia also each had a one-game Buccaneer; wide receiver Chas Gessner for the former in 2007 and cornerback Steve Cargile for the latter in 2009.

Brate's still around; if he can make the team next year he could easily surpass Lawrie for second place on the list of Ivy League Bucs, as sorted by games played. It would take him quite some time to catch McHale.

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