Prior to the 2017 NFL Draft many fans of the New York Giants were banging the table for the team to trade up and select Alabama tight end O.J. Howard. Others were drooling over the athletic gifts of Miami’s David Njoku.
The Giants selected neither. The final first-round pick of the Jerry Reese era as GM was Evan Engram of Ole Miss. He out-produced all other rookie tight ends in 2017, and Elliot Harrison of NFL.com says Engram is the best under-25 tight end in the league.
Amidst a brutal season in New York, Engram developed into a bright spot as a rookie. While more people focused on O.J. Howard in the 2017 NFL Draft (the tight end taken at No. 19 overall), Engram (No. 23) quietly tallied 64 catches for 722 yards and six TDs.
Thing is, Engram may have only scratched the surface of his ability last season. Engram was rarely used as a true tight end in college, running 73.3 percent of his routes from their as a senior. The Giants used him inline on 68.9 percent of snaps last season.
I asked Engram this spring about that adjustment:
“It was definitely something to get used to last year, especially being in college, never really attached [to the line]. But I definitely got uses to it last year and got a little comfortable towards the middle and into the season,” he said. “So, whenever I’m asked to do that now, it’s kind of second nature. But it’s just whatever the offense requires me to do, I’m trying to be better and get more comfortable doing whatever they ask. So, definitely a lot more comfortable in that aspect of being inline and blocking and getting releases and kind of the whole game that comes with being down there.”
His added comfort in that role should help him going forward, So, too, should a Pat Shurmur offense that appears set to rely heavily on ‘12’ personnel, two tight ends and one running back. Throughout the spring the Giants moved Engram all over the formation — inline, slot, detached to the same side as the inline tight end, in the backfield, split wide. They also used him on more vertical routes than we saw last year.
“I’m really excited about becoming a better player that’s going to help this team win a lot more games,” Engram said.
“The thing I’ve noticed, just being out here, going full-speed, is that the game is a lot more slowed down. The game has slowed down a lot. And that’s allowing me to kind of dig deeper into my bag of route techniques, or getting open and being able to focus more on the run game and getting stronger and just getting more comfortable out there. Last year, I kind of was, head was on a swivel a lot, the game was so fast and I wasn’t used to it. But just having a year under my belt and kind of getting thrown into some tough situations last year definitely helps slow the game down and allowed me to kind of focus on a lot of the little things and enhance my talents to be a better player.”
The other Giant who made Harrison’s All-Under-25 Team was safety Landon Collins.