NY Giants: Top 5 breakout candidates for the 2020 season

NY Giants(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
NY Giants(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /
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NY Giants
4. Evan Engram of the NY Giants (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

4. TE Evan Engram

We move from one punching bag of NY Giants fans in Deandre Baker to another in tight end Evan Engram. There is a lot of reason to believe that Engram could finally have the breakout season that the Giants expected when they drafted him in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Unfortunately for the Giants and for Engram, the talented young tight end has not been able to live up to expectations early on in his NFL career. The lackluster overall performance that Engram has provided hasn’t been a result of lack of talent, but rather is due to him being injury-plagued through his first three seasons in the league.

Evan Engram’s rookie season was his best season statistically. That is primarily due to the fact that he was able to play in 15 games that season. In 2018, that number dropped to 11 games and last season it dropped down to only eight games played.

When Engram has been healthy, he has been an offensive weapon for the Giants. In 2017, the wide receiving corps for the Giants were decimated by injury, which left Engram as the primary receiving target for Eli Manning, a role he performed capably in, catching 64 passes for 722 yards and six touchdowns.

Last season, despite missing half the year due to injury, Engram still had two games where he recorded over 100 yards receiving. Additionally, he has 17 games in his career where he has recorded six or more receptions, including one against the Dallas Cowboys last year where he had 14 receptions.

Incredibly, despite missing a16 games in his first three seasons, Engram has managed to have double-digit reception totals in seven of the 34 career games that he’s played in.

To put that in perspective, Zach Ertz has double-digit receptions in seven of the 45 games he’s played in since 2017, Travis Kelce has double-digit receptions in three of the 47 games he’s played in since 2017, and George Kittle has only one double-digit reception game in 45 games played since 2017.

Despite playing in 11 fewer games than Ertz and Kittle, Engram has the same number of double-digit receptions as Ertz and six more than Kittle, and with 13 fewer games than Kelce, Engram has four more double-digit reception games than Kelce.

That’s impressive when comparing Engram to the three best tight ends in the NFL. It also indicates that Engram has the potential to be one of the best tight ends in the league when he is healthy.

Sadly, many NY Giants fans focus only on the inability of Engram to remain on the field the past two years, which caused many of them to suggest the team should trade him or decline his fifth-year option. Luckily, the team recognized the level of talent that they had on the team and wisely picked up the fifth-year option on Engram.

Predicting injuries to players is difficult. So far Engram has missed time due to a hamstring pull, MCL sprain in his knee, a concussion, bruised ribs, and a foot injury that resulted in surgery. The concussion and foot injury are the most concerning because of their propensity for reoccurrence. However, many of Engram’s other injuries were flukey in nature and shouldn’t be a concern moving forward.

With injury being the biggest concern surrounding Evan Engram living up to his full potential, it was promising to see the emergence of backup tight end Kaden Smith following the Giants signing the rookie after he was placed on the 49ers practice squad. The addition of another former San Francisco tight end, Levine Toilolo should also be a positive indication of a breakout season in 2020 for Engram.

If the Giants can limit the snap counts of Engram by giving him a breather in the receiving game by utilizing Smith, who was impressive in limited action with New York last season, Engram’s injury risk should be reduced. That risk could be mitigated further by removing Engram from any blocking schemes, where he struggles mightily, and placing the 6’8″ and 270-pound behemoth Toilolo in instead.

If Joe Judge and the Giants can reduce the injury risk of Engram and keep him on the field like they did his rookie season, he has certainly shown he has the talent and ability to be mentioned amongst the elite tight ends in football, which makes him a legitimate breakout candidate in 2020.