He was there for the taking. All they had to do was call his name, and he was theirs. Just crook their finger and they would have had the darndest playmaker in the entire Texas A&M huddle.
You know, the guy with all the sizzle. The guy with all the flash. The guy with all the highlights.
Uh, no. Not that one.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the other guy Thursday night. They drafted Robin instead of Batman. They drafted Butch Cassidy instead of the Sundance Kid.
Yikes. Faced with a choice, they passed on Johnny Football. Instead, they picked Mikey Touchdown.
For the sake of the franchise, let us hope they are correct.
The Bucs picked Mike Evans, not Johnny Manziel. Calmly, quickly, they targeted Manziel's target, not Manziel. They took the catcher, not the passer.
Let's admit this. According to the NFL's grades, the Bucs were absolutely correct. Manziel, at one point thought to be in the conversation for the overall No. 1 pick, slid to 22. It is fair to suggest the league was not fighting over the chance to draft him.
Evans, meanwhile, was acknowledged to be the second-best receiver in the draft. And, yes, the Bucs have a much greater need for a receiver than quarterback.
So, yeah, they took Evans. An easy decision, coach Lovie Smith said.
Still, can you imagine the excitement today if the team had picked Manziel? Can you imagine the impact? For heaven's sake, can you envision the ticket window, which might finally have to open every day?
Granted, Manziel, at just under 6 feet, is a little small, and he's a little unorthodox. But he has been the finest playmaker in college football over the last two years. Didn't films of how he shredded Alabama's defense get to the NFL? Didn't the scouting reports state that he was usually the best player on the field?
Hey, you can judge by tape measures and stop watches all you want. But Manziel plays for the scoreboard. Your eyes tell you the kid can play.
Evans? He's a good player. A fine player.
Manziel? Potentially, he could define a franchise.
Hey, if nothing else, give the Bucs credit for their conviction. They knew how popular it would have been to take Manziel. Heck, you could draft him and sign Tim Tebow as a free agent, and you would bathe in the good vibes from the community.
The Bucs thought Evans was better.
Simple as that.
"There are a lot of good players," Smith said. "It's what's best for us. Our quarterback position is as strong a quarterback position as I've had. You know how much I like Josh McCown as our starting quarterback. But I love Mike Glennon. He's our quarterback of the future.
"Why would we want to add a third quarterback? We need other positions. We thought this was the best available player. Jason and I don't have a lot of vertical, but we high-fived it pretty high."
High. That's the key word with the Bucs receiving corps. With Vincent Jackson and Evans, they have two 6-foot-5 power forwards at receiver. Think of buildings on skates. General manager Jason Licht referred to them as "the Twin Towers," and, yes, the team already envisions the matchup problems they will present.
Licht, for instance, was beaming. He talked about speed and size and passion and mental toughness and "phenomenal hands" when talking about the 231-pound Evans. That's going to make McCown better. That's going to make the Bucs offense better.
Still, in a game where you pick sides, would you take Evans over the other guy in the same huddle?
Part of the deal, besides the eyebrows that the NFL raised over Manziel, was this: The Bucs need help now. McCown, if the team is right, will be the team's quarterback for the next two seasons. So why spend the No. 7 pick on a guy who presumably won't play until 2016 or so? The quarterback of the future — if it isn't Glennon, who hasn't proved it —can come later.
Here's the thing, though. A lot of people wanted the Bucs to take a quarterback because they aren't nearly as happy with the position as Smith. They see McCown's 16 wins, lifetime. They see Glennon's limitations. And so they yearn for a difference-maker.
The Bucs will tell you Evans can be that. No, receivers don't touch the ball nearly as often as quarterbacks. But they think Evans is a guy who will come away with most of the 50-50 balls. They think he and Jackson will feast on smaller corners. They think extra points will be a lot more frequent.
Yeah, Evans is their guy, all right.
Maybe he can make us forget the wistful feeling that Manziel will play elsewhere.