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Bucs take Texas A&M WR Mike Evans in first round of NFL draft

TAMPA — In the end, the Bucs chose to pass on Heisman Trophy quarterback Johnny Manziel. Instead, they took the guy on the other end of his touchdown passes.

Needing another playmaker to improve their last-ranked offense, Tampa Bay used the seventh overall pick of the NFL draft Thursday night to select receiver Mike Evans, Manziel's primary target at Texas A&M.

The 6-foot-5, 231-pound Evans gives the Bucs ''Twin Towers'' at receiver, where he will pair with fellow 6-5 wideout Vincent Jackson, a player he frequently has been compared with.

"He was our guy," general manager Jason Licht said of the redshirt sophomore who turns 21 in August. "What stood out? It was what stood up on him. It's an old Houston (Rockets) reference, we've got the Twin Towers now.

"He's a big guy who can run. Very physical, very tough and has phenomenal hands. Not just good hands, phenomenal hands."

Entering the draft, much of the speculation centered on Manziel, who impressed Bucs coaches during his visit to One Buc Place.

Having signed Bears free agent Josh McCown to a two-year, $10 million contract and instantly naming him the starter, reports surfaced that the Bucs would look to trade backup Mike Glennon during the three-day draft and possibly replace him with Manziel.

Coach Lovie Smith didn't just end that speculation Thursday night, he smashed it.

"Our quarterback position is as strong, to me, as any quarterback position I've had as a head coach," said Smith, who had Jay Cutler and McCown in 2012, his final year with the Bears.

"You know how much I like Josh McCown as our starter here. But I love Mike Glennon. Mike Glennon is our quarterback of the future here. So why would I want to add a third quarterback to the mix?

"It was an easy decision for us. Jason and I, we don't have a very high vertical, but we high-fived it pretty high when we were able to make this pick."

Evans has only played four years of football. He starred at Galveston, Texas, Ball High in basketball until giving football another go his senior season, earning a scholarship to Texas A&M.

It was in College Station where he became fast friends with Manziel, his roommate who shared the stage with him at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday night.

As Manziel watched in disbelief as quarterback-needy teams passed on him — with the Jacksonville Jaguars choosing UCF's Blake Bortles third overall — Evans stood by his side. When Evans was selected by the Bucs, he became emotional, hugging Manziel.

"That's my quarterback, one of my best friends," Evans said. "Me and him both being here, it's a blessing. I gave him a big hug and told him I hope he gets off the board soon and I was happy to be a Buc.

"I was trying not to cry. I told everybody I wasn't going to cry. It just hit me, and I couldn't hold it back. My dream is coming true."

Playing exclusively on the right side of the Aggies offense, Evans quickly became one of the college football's most productive receivers.

With Manziel extending plays and looking for his biggest target, Evans had 69 catches for 1,394 and 12 touchdowns last season. As a freshman, he had 82 receptions for 1,105 and five touchdowns.

Aggies receivers coach David Beaty said Evans is nearly as good a run blocker as he is a pass catcher.

"He thinks about the game, and he works like a pro," Beaty said. "What I mean by that, his work ethic is second to none. … He's a great leader. He blocks his tail off. His blocking highlight is almost as good as his receiving highlight."

Having two big, physical receivers on offense is a formula that Smith and McCown saw work well with the Bears, who thrived with receivers Brandon Marshall (6 feet 4) and Alshon Jeffery (6-3). In five starts with the Bears last season, McCown threw 13 touchdowns and one interception.

"I think if you look at the league last year — and of course I had a lot of time to look at the league last year — I saw what two big receivers can do," Smith said.

"It's a tough matchup. You just look at the average height of cornerbacks in the league. You might have one 6-foot corner, but you normally don't have two big guys who can match up like that. We want to score points in any way we can, and this is a combination that looks pretty attractive.

"Yes, seeing that work like that was attractive to us."

Certainly, it was more attractive to the Bucs than Manziel, who fell to No. 22 before he was selected by the Browns, who traded up four spots to get him. The Bucs play at Cleveland on Nov. 2.

"I thought he should've gone No. 1," Evans said.

Time staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

Draft facts

When: 7 tonight, Rounds 2-3, ESPN, ESPN2, NFL Network; Saturday, Rounds 4-7, noon, ESPN, NFL Network

Where: Radio City Music Hall, New York

Bucs picks (round/overall): 2/38, 3/69, 5/143, 6/185, 7/221

. fast facts

Meet Mike Evans

WR, Texas A&M

6-5, 231 pounds, 20 years old

First round, seventh pick overall

Galveston, Texas

COLLEGE STATS: Caught 69 passes for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns as a redshirt sophomore in 2013. As a redshirt freshman during Johnny Manziel's Heisman Trophy season in 2012, he caught 82 passes for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns.

BIG GAMES: Evans had his biggest games against two of the SEC's toughest teams in 2013. Against defending champion Alabama, Evans had 279 receiving yards and a touchdown, and against eventual SEC champion Auburn, he had 284 yards and four touchdown receptions.

DRAFT HISTORY: Just the third receiver taken in the first round by the Bucs (Michael Clayton, 2004; Reidel Anthony, 1997).

Greg Auman, Times staff writer

Bucs take Texas A&M WR Mike Evans in first round of NFL draft 05/08/14 [Last modified: Friday, May 9, 2014 12:03am]
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