What Is The Upside — And The Downside — of The Giants Drafting Engram?
The Giants addressed their need at tight end by picking Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram.
In an absolute shocker of a move, the Giants made Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram their first-round pick. The move came after Alabama tight end O.J. Howard slipped, causing fans to get their hopes up. And for the second straight year, New York made a pick that likely nobody saw coming.
Right off the bat, let me say I like the move. Despite Reuben Foster still being on the board, the Giants likely thought that they could either make an already great defense elite, or that they could make an offense that struggled in 2016 more stable. And while a lot of people — including myself — would’ve liked to see the Giants take Miami’s David Njoku, it’s hard to hate a move that provides the Giants with a player who will fill an immediate need.
The Giants clearly liked Engram more than Njoku, kind of like how they liked Eli Apple more than Vernon Hargreaves a year ago.
If you’re looking for a dynamic, athletic tight end, then look no further than Evan Engram. Last year at Ole Miss, Engram totaled 926 yards and eight touchdowns. That was 331 more yards than O.J. Howard had, and 228 more yards than Njoku had.
The 6'3" tight end is arguably the most athletic tight end in this year’s draft class, and certainly is the fastest. Engram ran a 4.42 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine. The second-fastest tight end was Howard, who ran a 4.51. Also, Odell Beckham Jr. ran a 4.43. So yeah, Engram is fast.
His legitimate speed is going to bug the hell out of defensive coordinators. He’s too fast for most linebackers, and too big for most safeties.
Whereas Will Tye is billed as a fast tight end but can’t create separation, Engram actually can. Additionally, Engram can make the tough, contested grabs that Giants tight ends from the last few years simply couldn’t do on a consistent basis.
The above play is an example of Engram’s ability as a route-runner. He’s able to create separation by running a good route, which allows him to position his body to corral pass.
Here’s an example of what Engram gives the Giants in the end zone. He just flat-out out-jumps the defender, and makes the tough grab for six. The size isn’t the only thing that makes him a dangerous option around the end zone. His 36-inch vertical jump gives him leaping ability to boot.
Another strength of Engram is that he’s consistent. He’s a big-bodied player with the ability to serve as a security blanket for a quarterback, which is what he did a lot at Ole Miss for Chad Kelly.
In terms of yards after the catch, Engram may not have a natural knack for eluding defenders like the aforementioned Njoku, but his natural athleticism can get him out of some predicaments.
NFL.com compared Engram to Jordan Reed, and I like that comparison a lot. However, his play style actually reminds me more of Aaron Hernandez. They have a similar build, and like Hernandez, Engram is able to utilize his athletic ability and speed to create openings in the defense.
While O.J. Howard is pro-ready in terms of blocking, Engram is not. A big reason for that is because he was seldom used as a tight end during his time at Ole Miss. Instead, Engram was utilized as a wide receiver, which allowed him to show off his transcendent skill set.
I’m really unsure how frequently the Giants plan to line him up in a three-point stance as a hand-in-the-ground tight end. But if they plan on doing that a lot with Engram, he’s going to have to improve in that regard.
That’s actually a really interesting thing about Engram: his biggest strength as a tight end — his ability as a receiver — is actually his biggest weakness. A silver lining exists regarding Engram’s poor blocking, however.
He’s going to a team that has arguably the best blocking receiver in the NFL, as Brandon Marshall has created a positive reputation for himself as a blocker.
While he’s not a great blocker, the effort is there. It’s not like he just doesn’t want to block, he just needs to improve his technique. The good news is that the Giants already have their blocking tight end in Rhett Ellison, so they won’t necessarily live and die by Engram’s blocking.
Where does he fit?
I am interested to see what this offense can do with Engram running the routes that were reserved for Tye a year ago. Engram can easily create separation, and he’ll give Eli a really nice red-zone target.
He’s likely going to see a lot of action early on, and he’s going to have the ability to make some plays.
And before you start bashing the Giants for the pick, try to remember the last time the Giants had a truly athletic, reliable tight end Eli could throw the ball to. The last such tight end was Martellus Bennett, which was back in 2012. Eli traditionally always gets the most out of his tight ends, and Engram should be no different.
By way of being on an offense with Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall and Odell Beckham Jr., Engram is going to get a lot of looks. He’ll be able to use his speed and explosiveness to win some of those early battles with safeties and linebackers.
We haven’t seen Eli Manning operate with an athletic, competent tight end since 2012. That alone should excite Giants fans.
Picture an offense with OBJ, Shep, Marshall, Shane Vereen and Engram. That’s a nightmare for defenses to try to scheme up a way to defend. Additionally, how Hernandez was able to succeed as Rob Gronkowski’s second-option, Engram has a chance to shine early as a complement to the trio of receivers New York has.
The versatility Engram possess in terms of where he can line up on offense makes the pick a smart one, and allows the Giants to address another need come the following rounds.
Talk Giants with Ryan on Twitter: @DisdierSports