Since the old regime that drafted him was fired, Evan Engram has survive more on hype than production for the NY Giants.
The 2017 season was supposed to be a great one for Big Blue. Fresh off of a playoff appearance and an 11-5 season while snagging a first-round draft pick that was supposed to be a weapon for Eli Manning in Evan Engram, the 2017 NY Giants were supposed to be deadly on offense.
The original under/over for the G-Men that year was nine wins and most expected them to be a major factor in the overall NFL landscape.
But the greatness never came. The NY Giants stunningly went 3-13, the head coach and the general manager were fired after the Geno Smith debacle and the team has been searching for a new identity ever since.
There remains something that stinks of that terrible regime, and that’s former general manager Jerry Reese’s 2017 twenty-third overall draft pick Evan Engram.
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Engram, who enters this season in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract has the rest of this season to prove he’s worth the fifth-year option that calls for him to make just over $5M. But games like the 2020 season opener will keep people guessing about his future as he’s yet to come anywhere near to living up to his massive potential.
In this year’s season opener on Monday Night Football the speedy tight end caught just 2 passes for 9 yards, despite his 7 targets being the second-most on the team.
But more importantly, he dropped an easy pass early in the game, missed multiple key blocks, and was called for offensive pass interference (however ridiculous the call) that took away a first down during a pivotal part of the contest.
This could have been a game where ‘Easy E’ began to silence the doubters, at least for the time being, but the errors continue to stack up against him leaving his future with the team very much in the air.
Why you shouldn’t buy into Engram’s massive hype
Evan Engram has yet to play a full NFL season as he’s started just 26 out of a possible 49 games in his young career but the hype around his potential stems from his promising rookie season in 2017 after he ripped up the NFL Combine.
That year, Engram started in 11 games and played in 15, both of which remain career highs. He was sixth among tight ends and 32nd overall in the league in receptions with 64. He also racked up the fifth-most reception yards for TEs with 722. His six touchdowns were tied for fourth-most among TEs.
The sky appeared to be the limit for the speedy player, but since then he’s given little reason to inspire confidence.
The only tight end targeted more than Engram that season was Travis Kelce. But Engram had only a 55.7% catch percentage compared to Kelce’s 68%. Further, Engram had the lowest catch percentage among TEs in the top ten according to Pro Football Reference. You’d have to go all the way down to David Njoku who was 25th among TE’s and 131st overall in receptions to find someone with a lower catch percentage.
Since then, Engram’s play has deteriorated to put it mildly. injuries kept him off the field for the better part of the next two subsequent seasons. In 2018 he played in 11 games while starting only eight; in 2019 he played in just eight while starting in only six games total.
You can’t stop injuries from happening and it’s unfortunate that he was not on the field more during those years to improve his numbers as his per-game stats were still in line with the upper-echelon of the tight end department.
Engram’s 45 receptions in 2018 were 80th overall in the NFL while his 44 receptions in 2019 were 83rd overall, but considering he only played in about half of the season’s action those numbers project to elite status over a full campaign.
He scored just three touchdowns in each of those years, the same number of drops in each of those years. His drop percentage was under 5% in each year showing that the ‘stone hands’ narrative is a bit overstated.
Drops and injuries aside, Engram is not what anyone would call a traditional tight end. He was drafted to play as a speedy slot TE/WR hybrid as his blocking was a major concern coming out of Ole Miss which has manifested itself, especially lately.
Reese’s short-sightedness to find Eli Manning a new weapon never anticipated that a tight end would have to block very often which is a crucial part of playing that position.
The NY Giants’ run blocking deficiencies were on full display in the season opener, with superstar Saquon Barkley being held to just six yards on 15 attempts. Engram completely whiffed on at least one block which resulted in Barkley being wrapped up before he could even reach the line of scrimmage in what ended up being a reccuring theme throughout the dissapointing loss.
The big news before the 2019 campaign was that Engram worked on his blocking game. Pro Football Focus improved his grade in run blocking from 48.7 in 2017 to 60.6 in 2018. But it seems like he’s now ‘living up’ to his 2020 PFF overall rating of a paltry 30.9.
Engram is still a young player, whose potential fantasy football value seems to outweigh his actual value which will give him the benefit of the doubt in a position that is increasingly bending more toward his strengths.
Simply put, great players find a way to be great, and if Engram wants to remain on the NY Giants roster moving forward he’s going to have to find a way to get back on track fast as the organization has to be growing skeptical that he’ll ever be able to put it all together.
Should he continue to struggle and the team gets off to a slow start he might end up being moved at the trade deadline as GM Dave Gettleman might want to ship him off before he potentially loses him for nothing in the offseason should that fifth-year option not be picked up.