Coming off of career numbers as a junior in 2001, Lee Evans considered leaving Wisconsin as a junior and would have been among the top receiver prospects in the draft. He had 75 receptions for 1,545 yards and nine touchdowns, which earned him both an All-American and All-Big Ten honors.
However, a torn knee ligament suffered in the Badgers spring game in 2002 forced Evans to miss the ensuing season. Before the injury Evans had 4.33 40-yard dash speed and after rehabilitation he has worked himself back to that range.
Evans bounced back from the injury by leading Wisconsin in receiving as a senior with 64/1,213/12 and received All-American notice. He proved he still had big-play capability when he caught 10 passes with school records of 258 yards and five scores against Michigan State.
"He's back from his knee injury," Greg Gabriel, the Bears director of college scouting, said. "That was a concern looking at him because you didn't know how he was going to come back from a serious knee injury. He played all year without the use of a brace. They don't have a great quarterback up there, yet he still had a very productive year."
Taking Evans in the first round would be a reach for the Bears. Admittedly his draft stock is rising and he will likely be off the board by the end of round one, but if he slips into the second round he would be a bargain and the missing weapon offensive coordinator Terry Shea covets. General manager Jerry Angelo could also consider moving back from the 14th slot to take Evans and pick up an additional draft choice.
"Lee Evans is going to be a fine, fine pro," Angelo said. "He's shown a lot of character in terms of work ethic and handling that adversity that he went through. He's got exceptional speed. He played his whole college career, you like to see that, a player with history and he certainly has very good history."
In a receiver class stacked with targets 6-foot-2 and above, Evans is a different entity. At 5-11, 197 pounds Evans does not have a big frame, which could be a benefit and hindrance. He's an elusive player, but over time his lack of size could lead to injury problems.
There is a minor issue about Evans off the field habits after being arrested for marijuana possession and ordered to complete community service.
"There's a lot that I've learned being in school actually for an extra two years," Evans said. "Just about sitting out for awhile. You learn a little more about the game, and being injured you learn a little bit more about yourself and things like that. So there's plenty of things to learn. It's just about how you approach it and attack it, basically."
TFY Draft Preview Scouting Report
Positive: Game impacting receiver that can be a one-man show. Quick releasing off the line, displays solid route running skills and terrific football intelligence. Remains focused, has a great sense of timing and gets vertical to high point of the ball. Extends his hands, looks the pass in and works to make himself an available target. Intimidating force that has opponents playing back on their heels. Lays out for the difficult catch in traffic or positions himself against defenders to make the reception.
Negative: Lacks the large frame and has difficulty battling larger opponents. Knee injury of 2002 seemed to take the edge off his game last season.
Analysis: A gifted athlete and natural receiver, Evans is justifiably the best receiver to come out of Madison since Al Toon. An intelligent football player with a great feel for the position and the speed to break games open, Evans is a quality pick late in the first round that should eventually grow into a team's No. 1 receiver.