It’s always sad to part ways with the all time greats, and Jahri Evans is certainly that. The man deserves his due more than I could ever give him justice with this post. When I think of the best draft class in Saints history, 2006, which included Marques Colston, Reggie Bush, Zach Strief, Roman Harper etc… guys that combined were the stepping stone class to a Super Bowl title, I view guard Jahri Evans as the crown jewel. On the podcast, Ralph Malbrough named Evans “the best Saints offensive lineman ever not named Willie Roaf, and the next guy isn’t close”. That’s a fair assessment, especially since Roaf is arguably one of the best tackles of all time. Evans is in truly elite company when it comes to Saints history. But is he in the top five?
I think the top 3 are close to impossible to debate. Drew Brees, Willie Roaf, Rickey Jackson. Clearly, they are best in franchise history. Two are Hall of Famers, and the other is greatest free agent pick up in NFL history and a 100% certain future Hall of Famer. I did a top 101 Saints players of all time back in 2014 and Evans was #8 at the time. Since then, he’s played two more seasons with the Saints, one of which resulted in another Pro Bowl trip. I think it’s fair to evaluate if things have changed since I created this list.
First, let’s consider his credentials:
PRO BOWL – Evans is tied for 3rd in most Pro Bowls as a Saints with 6. Brees is first with 8 and Roaf is second with 7. Morten Andersen, Jackson and Evans all have 6. There’s your top 5 in terms of Pro Bowls made right there. No one else has made more than 4 (Sam Mills, Vaughan Johnson, Pat Swilling, Joe Horn).
ALL-PRO – All Pro is a more significant designation than the Pro Bowl, in some ways, because it pegs you as the best player at your position in the NFL. Drew Brees as a Saint has only been an All-Pro once, for example. Jahri Evans has been All-Pro 4 times. No other Saint in history has been All Pro more than twice (Roaf, Andersen, Swilling).
APPROXIMATE VALUE – Pro Football Reference has a cool tool that tries to attribute one number to quantify the value of a player. This isn’t a super meaningful stat necessarily, but it’s still a data point that paints the picture. Evans is 3rd behind Brees and Jackson on this scale. He’s ranked ahead of Roaf (7th), Andersen (24th), Mills (9th) and Swilling (6th).
Based on these three stats, I don’t see how you can argue that he’s not top 5. Guards don’t pile up stats which make it hard to exactly quantify their value, but clearly Evans’ respect amongst his peers is significant. In fact, I’d place Evans as 4th all time ahead of Andersen, Mills, Swilling, Deuce McAllister and Marques Colston. Perhaps if Andersen makes the Hall of Fame there’s a claim to him moving up to 4th, but his time with the Falcons wouldn’t count in this evaluation. I don’t think Evans did enough to make the Hall of Fame (unless he builds his resume to end his career elsewhere), but I think he’s leapfrogged Mills, Swilling and Andersen since I made that list in 2014. In hindsight, I had McAllister as #4 on this list but I’m realizing this was a sentimental move. McAllister was great, but he likely belongs in the bottom of the top 10 based on career numbers.
Your thoughts? Is Evans the 4th best Saint in history?