The TEs of the NFC
Right away, it’s not hard to tell that the AFC is where the good TEs play.
Four of the top five tight ends in receiving yards come from the AFC. But four NFC tight ends break into the top ten: T.J. Hockenson is currently third, Evan Engram is currently seventh, Logan Thomas is currently eighth, and Robert Tonyan is currently 10th.
Engram only leads Thomas by two yards. And since we’ve already compared Engram to Hockenson, we’ll now look at how Engram compares to the next three NFC tight ends: Thomas, Robert Tonyan, and Dalton Schultz, who’s currently 12th in receiving yards.
Engram’s numbers certainly fit it with his NFC counterparts, but you still have to scratch you head at why he was selected over the others.
Engram leads Thomas, Tonyan, and Schultz in targets, longest play, reception yards, yards per game and yards after catch. But he is again the lead when looking at the “bad” metrics: Engram has the most drops, the highest drop percentage, caused the most interceptions, and has by far the lowest passer rating when he’s targeted.
Washington’s Logan Thomas is only two reception yards behind Engram. He has more receptions on fewer targets, and currently has five touchdowns. He has a catch percentage of 68.1 (Engram, 56.8), which is second lowest compared to this group.
Thomas has four drops, for a drop percentage of 4.4, which resulted in two interceptions. His passer rating when targeted is second lowest in the group, but at 94.1, it’s almost double that of Engram’s 56.1.
If the Pro Bowl was looking for tight ends who can actually score, Thomas would be more appealing than Engram, but still not as appealing as Tonyan.
Green Bay’s Robert Tonyan is tied with Travis Kelce for most touchdowns among tight ends with 10. That’s on 49 receptions and 551 yards. He averages 39.4 yards per game, and his catch is the best of this foursome at 89.1%.
Perhaps most important, he has zero drops. The passer rating when Tonyan is targeted is 148%.
Dallas’ Dalton Schultz is also in striking distance with Engram in most categories. With 53 receptions, he has just one below Engram. Engram leads Schultz in yards per reception as well, 10.6 to 9.8. His 241 yards after catch are just two behind Engram. And his average yards per game is 3.5 yards below Engram’s 40.9.
And while his biggest deficit is in reception yards (572 vs. 524), his four touchdowns are more than Engram’s one. Further, Schultz has a catch percentage of 70.7.
Plus, Schultz is far less likely to drop the ball than Engram; he has three drops, one of which was responsible for an interception. The passer rating while Schultz is targeted is 102.3%.
It’s hard to imagine that the two-yard advantage in reception yards is what solidifies Evan Engram’s status as a Pro Bowler, especially since he is far more likely to drop the ball or cause more interceptions than anyone discuss in this post.
So was he picked for his big-play ability? His 53-yard play is the only thing that he holds over the other tight ends. But the players won’t even play in this year’s Pro Bowl.
It seems wrong that Engram was selected over more reliable receivers. But his selection highlights just how far behind the NFC is in its use of the modern day tight end.