Everyone who follows the New York Giants know that this year’s selection in the first round of the annual college draft was Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram. While it was not surprising that the club took a tight end in the early stages of the draft, many an eyebrow was raised with the selection of Engram.
While O.J. Howard of Alabama was the consensus number one tight end, many assumed if Howard was not available when the Giants selected at the 23rd slot that University of Miami product David Njoku would become their alternate choice.
By all accounts, Engram has all the appearances of a first-round player with incredible speed to help out with the Giants 2016 offensive jugger-not performance. More production at the TE position has been needed for quite some time since the recent days of Jake Ballard and Kevin Boss.
And the Giants obviously have a man-crush on Engram.
Many argue that serviceable and even good tight ends can be had in the later rounds instead of investing in that position in the valuable first round. Ballard was an undrafted free-agent and was on his way to an exceptional career until a horrible ACL knee injury. Considered the Giants greatest TE ever, Mark Bavaro was taken in the fourth round of the 1985 draft. Boss was a fifth-round choice while Howard Cross was taken in the sixth round. All were key components to Super Bowl victories.
Let’s examine what level of success the Giants have had with tight ends selected early in the draft.
Round 1, 2002 (14th)
The last time Big Blue took a tight end in Round 1 was 2002 with Jeremy Shockey from the University of Miami. Fresh off a national championship, Shockey was a second-team All-American and First-team All-Big East. He would thrive early with New York and go on to become the NFL Rookie of the Year and became an integral part of the passing attack. He was also named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
Shockey became a Pro Bowler in four of his first five seasons with the Giants. In 2005 he signed a $26.38 contract extension, which at the time made him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL. Injuries plagued his career and when the Giants won the 2007 Super Bowl with him sidelined, speculation began about whether the club might be better off without his outspoken views. In 2008, he was traded to the New Orleans Saints.
Round 1, 1992 (14th)
During his final two seasons with Notre Dame, Brown accumulated 545 yards receiving with five TDs, yet the Giants took him anyway. Brown was a marginal blocker and netted 31 receiving yards his first year and only 56 yards his sophomore campaign. By year three he was regulated mainly to special teams play. Brown was then placed on the list of unprotected players available in the 1995 expansion draft and was chosen by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Round 2, 1981 (32nd)
In the same draft that saw Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor become a New York Football Giant, the club selected tight end Dave Young with the fourth pick in the second round. In that same round (and selected after Young) were future Hall of Famers Mike Singletary, Rickey Jackson along with Howie Long. Young played one season and had five receptions for 49 yards and a lone TD. Scary to think how the Giants would have looked with LT coupled with Singletary.
As far as the later rounds and the free-agent TE market, in addition to the four players mentioned earlier, the conclusion is there were some gems - and a lot of gravel.
Late-Round Picks, Free Agents
While the first-round pick of Brown became a bust, the Giants also took blocking ace Aaron Pierce in the third round of that 1992 draft. He would prove to be the better choice and had a fruitful career for Big Blue as he played six seasons. Dan Campbell (Texas A&M) was taken in the third round in 1999 and was the starter until Shockey was taken. Adrien Robinson of Cincinnati was a fourth-round revelation in 2012 who only gained 50 yards in three seasons. Travis Beckum (2009, third round) caught only 26 career passes.
Arguably the second-greatest tight end for the Giants is Bob Tucker. This free-agent came by way of the minor league Pottstown Firebirds and Lowell Spinners of the Atlantic Coast Football League where he played for $300 a game. Tucker, a Middletown Township, N.J. native, played eight seasons with the Giants and was one of Fran Tarkenton’s favorite targets. He averaged 702 yards per season his first four years in New York. In seven years and part of an eighth with the Giants he started 98 games and caught 327 passes. He was traded to the Minnesota Vikings in the middle of the 1977 season.
Other notable free-agent TEs were Zeke Mowatt (1983-1984, 1986-1989, 1991), Aaron Thomas (1962-1970), Joe Walton (1961-1964) and Bob Schnelker (1954-1960).