Stock Tips: Week 5
History rarely is kind to second bananas. No kid wants to dress up as Robin for Halloween. Or Barney Rubble.
Sure, every once in a while you get a marquee name like Johnny Depp playing Tonto. For the most part, though, there’s The Man and then there’s That Other Guy.
When history gets its hands on the Johnny Football Era, it’s likely that little more than a footnote will be devoted to a guy who had a huge hand in writing it. Huge hands, actually.
Johnny Manziel may be Texas A&M’s resident magician. But without a lovely assistant to saw in half, a magician has no act. And without Mike Evans, Manziel is just a tap-dancing quarterback trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat every play.
Manziel’s legacy will feature his two games against Alabama. But his heroics against the Tide this year must be credited largely to Evans, who caught everything thrown his way and made plays on the balls less-than-perfectly delivered. Manziel rolled right to keep one play alive, and Evans broke off his route and came back 10 yards to give his quarterback an open target downfield. First down. Later, Manziel was doing one of his Gordie Howe spin-a-ramas to keep the play alive; he then flung the ball toward the end zone, where Evans had posted up the cornerback and had perfect positioning to make the catch. Even the 95-yard touchdown was the result of Manziel hitting an undefended receiver, who beat press coverage at the line and was wide-open three strides into his route.
Perhaps the quintessential Manziel-to-Evans pass was completed on Saturday against Arkansas. Manziel scrambled to his left to avoid pressure, then flung the ball into a crowd in the middle of the end zone. He couldn't have tossed up a jump ball in the middle of more Razorbacks if he'd thrown it into Arkansas' defensive huddle. Evans, encircled by six defenders, made the catch – as he always seems to – pulling off what was less Hail Mary than Hail Mikey.
The NFL has to love watching this guy make plays. Every team dreams of having a 6-foot-5, 225-pound target with hands as soft as Louisville’s schedule. He doesn’t have track star speed, but he’s a proven deep threat (on a team whose quarterback is still developing as a downfield passer). Clearly, he can make catches in traffic, which will make him some lucky quarterback’s favorite red zone target.
In a draft class deep at receiver, Evans is going to be among the top three big wideouts targeted by the NFL.
And you know what? There’s a case to be made that Jared Abbrederis should be in that conversation, too.
He’s definitely a step down from the true big boys (Evans, 6-6 Brandon Coleman, 6-3 Jordan Matthews or 6-3 Cody Hoffman), and he’s not on the same level as home run threats like Marqise Lee (6-0) or Sammy Watkins (6-1).
But the No. 1 job of an NFL receiver is to catch the football (we’re looking at you, Stephen Hill), and Wisconsin’s redshirt-senior is like that kindergartener with the perpetual runny nose during flu season – the kid catches everything.
In Wisconsin, where running backs and run-blocking linemen rival cheese and beer as the state’s top exports, Abbrederis is a bit of an anomaly. It’s tough to imagine what his numbers would look like in a spread offense, although Saturday’s stats (10 catches, 207 yards, 1 TD) are a pretty good indication. And his career day came with Bradley Roby, perhaps the top cornerback prospect in the country, covering him much of the game.
Abbrederis’ signature catch, in fact, came against -- or over -- Roby. He was open down the right sideline but had to stop and come back for an underthrown pass. As he made the catch at the top of his jump, Roby ran through his lower body, knocking him sideways in the air. Abbrederis held onto the ball, making as tough a catch as there is – a highlight in a game when he already had a 36-yard touchdown and a 64-yard reception.
Abbrederis doesn’t have Mike Evans’ measurables, nor does he have wow speed. But no Jared has come up bigger since those "before" pictures of the Subway spokesman. Abbrederis has the hands and the game to warrant a Day Two pick – probably ahead of any Wisconsin back or blocker. Which would be a nice rare moment in the spotlight for That Other Guy.