Top 50 All-Time Bills, No. 45: WR Lee Evans

Lee Evans is already one of the best wide receivers in team history. How much higher will he rise among the all-time greats? photo source

Lee Evans (2004-present) | 5'10", 197 lbs.

Notable Achievements: Bills single game receiving yardage leader (265 yards)

Lee Evans was born on March 11, 1981 in Sandusky, Ohio.  He starred at Bedford High School in Cleveland, where he was a teammate of Chris Chambers before moving on to the University of Wisconsin.  He played three seasons for the Badgers (missing a fourth to an ACL tear) before forgoing his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL.  At Wisconsin, Evans had two monster seasons - 1,545 yards and 9 TD in 2001 and 1,213 yards and 13 TD in 2003.  The Bills selected him with the No. 13 pick of the 2004 NFL Draft.

Career Highlights
Lee Evans is overrated.  Yet, he is also simultaneously underrated.  Many Bills fans consider him one of the top wide receivers in the league today, despite being very inconsistent.  Throw in a contract that pays him the third richest deal in the league for a WR and it's hard not to expect more from him.  He may be a bit overrated in the current sense, but in an historical sense, he may actually be underrated.  In his short career, he's already moved into the Top 5 in franchise history in all of the major receiving categories.  We always seem to be left wanting more, but it's also time to appreciate Evans for what he has accomplished to this point. 

As a rookie, Evans saw a lot of playing time opposite Eric Moulds, starting 11 games and producing big plays almost from the get go.  In just his second career game, Evans caught a 65-yard pass against the Raiders.  He followed that up with a 4-catch, 93-yard performance against the Patriots, including a 55-yarder, and added a 46-yard touchdown against the Jets in Week 4.  He was well on his way to being the deep threat the team envisioned he would be.  He was able to produce his first 100-yard performance in Week 13, with 4 catches for 110 yards and 2 TD, while the Bills won a shootout in Miami.  From Weeks 12-16, Evans really burst onto the scene.  In this five-game stretch, Evans caught 27 passes for 406 yards and 7 touchdowns.  It was no coincidence that the Bills also scored over 30 points in each game and put together a six-game winning streak before blowing a chance for the playoffs against the Steelers' backups.  For the season, Evans had 48 receptions for 843 yards and 9 touchdowns (still a career high).

Evans' sophomore season was similar to his rookie year.  He repeated his 48 receptions, but saw a dip in yardage as he put up 743 yards, and 7 touchdowns.  Just like in his rookie year, he put up two 100-yard receiving performances, highlighted by his 5-catch, 113-yard and 3 TD performance in Miami late in the season.  After Moulds was traded to the Texans in the off-season prior to 2006, Evans stepped into the No. 1 WR role, which he really took advantage of establishing himself as one of the best receivers in the AFC.  After a slow start, Evans ripped off 32 catches over the next four games on his way to a career season.  By far the best performance of his season (and his career) was his 11-catch, 265-yard game against the Texans (and Moulds), which was highlighted by two 83-yard touchdown receptions from J.P. Losman in the first ten minutes of the game.  He wound up having a pretty consistent season, having five or more receptions 10 times and at least 50 yards in 12 games.  For the year, he finished with 82 catches for 1,292 yards and 8 touchdowns.  Many Bills fans felt he was deserving of a Pro Bowl berth that year.

His two seasons since his breakout year have been somewhat disappointing.  Drawing a ton of double coverage and extra attention from defenses, Evans only had 55 grabs for 849 yards and 5 TD in 2007.  However, the lack of production can be partially attributed to the quarterback carousel the Bills put in place that year, with Losman and Trent Edwards rotating in and out of the lineup.  His place as a true No. 1 receiver was called into question, and somewhat rightfully so.  Evans did his best to answer the critics this past season, finishing with 63 receptions for 1,017 yards, but only 3 TD.  Again, shoddy quarterback play was one of the main culprits for his lack of top-flight production.  Still, he put up his second 1,000-yard receiving season despite being the only true down-field threat on the team.  Evans remains a mainstay for the Bills offense and should have plenty of opportunities to improve his numbers this upcoming season.

Best Moment(s)
For a player with so many long touchdowns, Evans hasn't had too many memorable catches.  Perhaps his best catch came in the Meadowlands in 2007, when he outjumped a pair of Jets defenders to come down with an underthrown Losman pass.  85 yards and one Gus Johnson aneurysm later, Evans was in the end zone with the game clinching touchdown.

His best game, as mentioned earlier, was his outstanding performance against the Texans in 2006.  He established the team record for receiving yards in a game that day, with his 265 yards.  The 11 receptions are tied for eighth most in team history for a single game.  His pair of 83-yard touchdown receptions show exactly how dangerous Evans can be if the team is willing to try to get him the ball down the field.

Parting Shots
As it stands, Evans is already one of the most prolific receivers in team history.  Despite the shaky quarterback situations he's been saddled with and the lack of a playmaker opposite him for most of his career, he has proven how dangerous he is with the ball in his hands.  While we all want him to become more of a well-rounded receiving threat while still increasing his big plays, but there's only so much he can do without any help.  Hopefully, with the addition of Terrell Owens this season to occupy extra defenders, he can finally shed the inconsistent label and become the player we all want him to be.  He has the talent: hands, speed, route running ability, intelligence and big play capabilities (along with the big contract) to be one of the best in the league. 

He'll be a Bill for at least four more seasons, so by the time his career in Buffalo ends he should be No. 2 or 3 in all of the team's major receiving categories.  Depending on how long his career in Buffalo ends up lasting, he could even challenge Andre Reed for top WR supremacy if our quarterback situation can be stabilized, though it looks a bit unlikely.  No matter what, Evans is the consummate professional who is the antithesis of today's prima donna wide receiver.  He has proven to be one of the best receivers in team history, and he should continue to solidify his spot among the team's all-time greats.

Career Stats
80 games
296 receptions (No. 5 in franchise history)
4,744 receiving yards (No. 4)
32 receiving touchdowns (No. 5)
3.7 receptions per game (No. 6)
59.3 yards per game (No. 3, No.1 among players with 16 or more games played)

Lee_Evans_TD
photo source

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