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Breaking down the Giants pick of Evan Engram

Photo Credit: AP/Mark Humphrey

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Eli Manning has another toy. With the 23rd pick of the first round in last night’s draft, the Giants selected tight end Evan Engram out of Ole Miss. It was a somewhat surprising pick for the Giants, given some names that were left on the board (David Njoku, Reuben Foster). However, it does fill a position of need for Big Blue, and there is reason to be encouraged about Engram. He’s no OJ Howard, who almost fell to them, but he’s athletic, fast, and he should make the G-men better, which is all you can ask for out of your first round pick.

Who is he?

Engram stands at 6’3” and weighs in at 235 pounds. He grew up in Georgia and was a 3-star recruit of high school. He had an accomplished high school career, being named first team All-State as a senior by the Associated Press and the Georgia Sportswriters Association after a campaign in which he caught 40 balls for 975 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In four years at Ole Miss, he started 42 of 45 games. His four year totals stand at 162 receptions, 2320 yards, and 15 touchdowns (eight in his senior year). He’s the Ole Miss all-time leader for career catches, yards, and touchdowns as a tight end.  In his senior campaign, Engram was a first team All-American, and won the Ozzie Newsome Award as the country’s best tight end. Over his career, he became the first player in Ole Miss history to earn All-SEC honors four times. So it’s clear he had an accomplished career.

Athleticism runs in the family, as his sister, Mackenzie, is a basketball player at Georgia who earned SEC All-Freshman honors for the 2014-15 season. Engram also has no off field concerns. Besides being a star tight end, he has also found time to work closely with the Special Olympics. Add it all up and you have a solid, confident young man. In his conference call interview last night, the newest Giant said he knows “for a fact” that he will “come in and make an immediate impact.” Engram added that he thinks the Giants “have been missing a piece like me,” saying that he felt he could be a “more dynamic piece” than Will Tye at that role.

Why I like the pick

Going into the night, I thought the Giants should definitely pick an offensive player. The defense was the strength of the team last year, while the offense struggled. It just made sense to fix the part of the team that needed improvement.

Tight end specifically is a position that needed an upgrade. Will Tye is a fine player, but he’s nothing special. Engram will come in and immediately give the Giants a legitimate receiving option at the position. The Ole Miss product doesn’t just have wide receiver size, he also has wide receiver speed. He ran a 4.42 40-yard dash, which was by far the fastest time among tight ends. It was tied for the fifth-fastest mark among all receivers. Engram will have no problem creating separation and getting open.

Due to Engram’s speed, athleticism, and lack of size, he has drawn comparisons to Jordan Reed and Aaron Hernandez (minus the whole being a murderer thing). Jerry Reese even said that Engram is “cut from the same cloth” as the Redskins star. Engram will line up all over. Reese said Engram’s size and speed gives him the ability to line up “at any of the receiver positions, tight end, in the slot, outside – he can line up anywhere.” Engram will be too fast for linebackers and too big for defensive backs. If used correctly, he can be a matchup nightmare for years to come.

The offense sputtered big time last season. Engram gives Eli Manning a fourth legitimate receiving option. He’ll obviously help the passing attack, but the pick will make the Giants offense better overall. Opposing defenses will have to respect all their receiving options, which should open up the running game. Additionally, while the Giants offensive line is still a problem, Manning won’t have to hold on to the ball that long now. Chances are that at least one of Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, or Evan Engram will be open early on every play.

Why I don’t

While there’s plenty of reason to like the pick, it’s also fair to have reservations about it. The biggest criticism is that he wasn’t the best player available at a position of need. The Giants need linebacker help, and former Alabama star Reuben Foster was surprisingly still available at 23rd overall.

Others will make the argument that Miami tight end David Njoku is a better prospect than Engram. Njoku is slower, but he’s bigger, stronger, and arguably more athletic given his size. He also has more potential to develop into a solid blocker given his frame. Coming into the night, Njoku was my dream for the Giants, but they obviously had Engram ranked higher. We all like to think we’re experts, but I’m fine admitting that professional NFL front offices know more than me about scouting, so I’ll respect their opinion.

The other knock on the pick is that it doesn’t help the Giants biggest need, which is protecting Manning. Some thought the Giants needed to draft an offensive lineman first, and Ryan Ramcyzk and Cam Robinson were still available. In my opinion though, neither brought much value at pick #23. Also, Robinson is still on the board. The Giants have a chance to move up in Round 2 and snag him. There were rumors that teams were trying to trade up to take Engram. If the Giants were that high on him, it made sense to snag him when they could. The other thought is that the Giants should have traded up to take OJ Howard, who’s universally seen as the best tight end in the class. It’s a move I probably would have made, but Reese is not known for first round aggression, and the asking price may have been too high.

As for Engram himself, there are legitimate knocks on his game. First of all, some would say he’s more of a wide receiver than a tight end, and we all know the Giants don’t need another wide receiver. The biggest knock on Engram is his poor blocking. He doesn’t have typical tight end size, so it’s tough for him to outmuscle defensive lineman, especially in the running game, and that could be a problem. The good news is the Giants did sign tight end Rhett Ellison in the offseason, who is viewed as a great blocker. It should allow Engram to be more of a receiving tight end.

The other knocks on Engram’s game is that he needs to be more physical when posting up defenders, which could make contested balls an issue. He also has somewhat of a drop problem.

Overall

I’m fairly neutral on the pick overall. He does fill a position of need, but it’s fair to wonder if he was the best at the position. Additionally, it doesn’t help the Giants need along the offensive line, and if we’re talking best player available, then they probably should have went with linebacker Reuben Foster.

However, the more I watch of Engram, and the more I read about him, the more I like him. Jerry Reese has a pretty good history of nailing first round picks, besides Ereck Flowers of course, so I’ll trust his judgement. Overall, Engram is an exciting player who makes the Giants better. It could be worse.

The Giants will pick 55 and 87 tonight. They need to grab an offensive lineman. I wouldn’t hate seeing them trade up and taking Alabama tackle Cam Robinson, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Attached below is the audio of the press conferences from Ben McAdoo and then Evan Engram. Engram’s starts at 4:25.

 
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