A week of unrelenting scrutiny surrounding the NFL Draft has seemingly evolved into acceptance and reached a new equilibrium in which fans are once again singing the praises of their newly bolstered rosters.
Debate over the best dressed, the late round starlets and the Cleveland Browns has dominated all NFL-related discussion for the past seven days. While the New York Giants managed to raise a few eyebrows, their selections were somewhat overshadowed by far more questionable decisions and the Big Blue faithful won’t mind that one bit.
It proved to be a steady draft for Ben McAdoo’s side as key positions were necessarily addressed. A refusal to trade up by General Manager Jerry Reese was inevitably met with query as fans watched preferred first round options pass by and go overlooked. That said, a week of analysis and consideration has led many to embrace Evan Engram as a thought-provoking use of the 23rd overall pick.
The unforeseen decision to opt for Engram, however, is testament to how highly the Giants regard the tight end, as well as how much faith they still have in the offensive line many believed would be prioritised. Engram isn’t a blocker, but there is a feeling he could turn out to be a surprise asset and a wise addition to the Giants offense.
What does he offer?
The Ole Miss product’s arrival unveils a desire to improve a Giants offense that somewhat underperformed last season, ranking 26th in NFL scoring and 25th in total yardage.
Eight touchdowns, 65 receptions, 926 yards and four 100 yards plus games saw him finish the 2016 season as his team’s leading offensive weapon in college. He comes in as a man of incredible athleticism with the speed and height, standing at 6'3", to pose as a handful for linebackers and safeties. His sure hands and speed down the middle of the field have emerged as standout qualities, giving fans good reason to believe he will become a valuable option for quarterback Eli Manning. Coach McAdoo is also sure to be an admirer of his catching ability and how well he maintains control of the ball having turned a focus towards ‘protecting the duke’ during the previous campaign.
His unique speed and quickness grants him the ability to separate with ease and gain extra yardage after the catch, which instantly identifies an area he is far stronger in than current tight end Will Tye. It has been his versatility that, too, has excited the Giants hierarchy in terms of promising to help inspire a more dynamic offense. Engram’s range of expertise will undoubtedly see him not only play in the traditional tight end slot, but also in the backfield, as a slot receiver and in the “Y” position as well as also on the special team coverage units.
An impressive acceleration, ability to adjust his position in order to meet throws and a proven work ethic when it comes to his route running suggests he could become useful in enhancing the team’s red zone efficiency. His expected progression throughout his rookie year will also demand more coverage from opposition defensive backfields, thereby creating more space for star receiver Odell Beckham Jr to function in, and ultimately making him a more difficult man to contain.
The ‘hybrid’ label outlining him as a unique talent with the speed and route running of a receiver, evidenced by his remarkable 4.42 time in the 40-yard dash at the combine, and the vertical threat of a tight end reiterates his primary purpose as a key playmaker. He has displayed a toughness and a willingness to block but is not yet physically equipped to make him capable of offering too much in the way of protection at pro level. Having said that, the growth he is likely to experience as a result of his new NFL training programmes could help him contribute more in this area in years to come.
Blocking is by no means a main trait of his but that doesn’t seem to matter as far as McAdoo is concerned. The head coach, entering his second year in charge, has reaffirmed his belief in his team’s offensive line and under-pressure tackle Ereck Flowers, in particular. There remains to be an expectation that the ninth overall pick in 2015 will continue to develop. Confidence in him is exactly what is needed and the introduction of free agent tight-end Rhett Ellison could be key in helping Flowers enjoy a more productive year.
Putting points on the board is what Engram has been bought into to do. No team registered fewer yards per reception from their tight ends than the Giants during the 2016/2017 season, giving the 22-year-old an opportunity to make a notable and immediate impact.