Tampa Bay Buccaneers With just 127 more yards and one more touchdown this season, Bucs WR Mike Evans would join an exclusive list made up almost entirely of Hall of Famers and future enshrinees Scott Smith
Lavonte David and Mike Evans are two of the most accomplished players in Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise history. David joins all-time great Ronde Barber as the only Buccaneers ever to exceed 1,000 tackles, 20 sacks and 10 interceptions. Evans holds virtually every receiving mark in the team's all-time record book.
David is the longest-tenured player on Tampa Bay's current roster and Evans holds that spot among offensive players. Both will hopefully be Buccaneers for their entire NFL careers. Regardless, someone will eventually be cleaning a spot on the stadium facade for their names to join the team's Ring of Honor. At the moment, though, both are still playing as well as they ever have, with the ends of their playing days nowhere in sight.
David and Evans have something else in common, too. Through the sheer weight of the incredible numbers they have accumulated so far, both have inserted themselves into exclusive clubs filled with some of the most recognizable names in NFL history. For Lavonte David, it's a Hall of Fame-heavy group of multi-talented linebackers; more on that here. Right now, we're going to discuss Mike Evans.
With four games left to go in his seventh season, Evans has accumulated the following numbers: 510 receptions for 7,873 yards and 59 touchdowns (he has an additional touchdown on a fumble recovery in the end zone in 2018).
All of those career marks are all-time records for the Buccaneers, and it's not particularly close in any category. Evans has 80 more receptions than the number-two man on the list, James Wilder; he has 2,855 more yards than the next man on that list, Mark Carrier; and he has 25 more touchdown catches than his closest competitor, Jimmie Giles. Evans also holds the team's single-season records for receiving yards (1,534) in 2018 and touchdown catches (12 in both 2014 and 2016). With 11 scores this season and four games to go, he could rewrite that second record in 2020.
The most famous statistical note regarding Evans' career so far is that he and Hall-of-Famer Randy Moss are the only two players in NFL history to open their careers with six consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Evans needs 387 more yards, or 96.8 per game, down the stretch to surpass Moss as the only player to do that in his first seven seasons.
That will be a tall task in the last four weeks, but it is certainly not out of reach. But even with relatively minor additions to his 2020 totals over four games, Evans will join a list made up exclusively of some of the greatest receiving stars in NFL history.
Specifically, Evans needs 127 more receiving yards, just 31.8 per game, and one more touchdown to reach 8,000 yards and 60 TD catches. Here's the list of all the players in NFL history who had at least 500 catches, 8,000 yards and 60 touchdowns by the end of their respective seventh seasons (credit to the Buccaneers' Communications Department for producing this note):
* Larry Fitzgerald
* Marvin Harrison
* Calvin Johnson
* Randy Moss
* Jerry Rice
* Sterling Sharpe
Harrison, Moss and Rice are already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Rice and Moss were both chosen in their very first years of eligibility, while Harrison got in on his third try. Larry Fitzgerald is still playing, but as the second-leading receiver in NFL history is an absolute lock to be selected for enshrinement in his first year of eligibility. Calvin Johnson is just now eligible for selection for the Class of 2021, has already made it to the semifinalist stage and will likely be among the 15 finalists. He too seems sure to end up in Canton.
Sharpe has been eligible since 2000 and has not be enshrined. He was one of the NFL's best receivers from 1988 to 1994 but his career was unfortunately cut short by a neck injury suffered at the very end of his seventh season. By that point, he already had four seasons with 90-plus catches (with a high of 112) and five with more than 1,000 yards (with a high of 1,461). He led the NFL in catches three times. He also was a Pro Bowler in five of his seven seasons and a first-team Associated Press All-Pro three times. With all of this, the widespread perception is that Sharpe had a good chance to end up in the Hall if his career hadn't been cut so short.
All Evans needs to join that group is about 32 yards a game and one more touchdown catch. Given that he has 11 touchdowns already and has already scored in nine of the Bucs' 12 games this year, that seems like a good bet. And his career yards-per-game average is 77.2. That's down to 51.1 this year, but that would still be more than enough.
If Evans succeeds in joining that list of mostly Hall-of-Famers, should we start considering his career in terms of its potential path to Canton? At age 27 and still very much in his prime, Evans has a long way to go before we know what his final accomplishments are, but there's little doubt he's off to an incredible start.