The tight end position is an interesting one for the New York Giants. From a strictly “on paper” perspective, they are “set” at the position for 2020. Evan Engram has nightmare potential as a receiving weapon (assuming coaches let him catch the ball further than 5 yards downfield) and is a better blocker than he gets credit for, Rhett Ellison is a quality number two tight end, and Kaden Smith emerged as a bright spot in a fairly dismal season.
Ellison ultimately retired at the start of the 2020 NFL league year. That leaves a depth chart of Engram with one to two years left on his rookie contract and Smith as the Giants likely tight ends in 2020. The team could take another look at C.J. Conrad and Garrett Dickerson to fill out their depth chart, but they could also look to the 2020 NFL Draft.
This is not a great tight end draft, but there are several players who could provide value in the middle rounds. Missouri tight end Albert Okwuegbunam was under-utilized in college, but he has a prototypical frame and the athletic tools to be a complete NFL tight end. Is he on the Giants’ radar?
Prospect: Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri
Games Watched: vs. Memphis (2018), vs. South Carolina (2019), vs. Ole Miss (2019)
Red Flags: None
Games Played: 27
Receptions (ypc): 98 (12.1)
Best: Ball skills, Versatility, Frame, Vertical routes
Projection: A top depth player in a scheme that emphasizes 12 personnel
Albert Okwuegbunam (pronounced “O-coo-WAY-boo-nahm”) has a prototypical frame for a tight end at the NFL level and enough athleticism to be a threat at all areas of the field. Okwuegbunam played out of a number of alignments in Missouri’s offense, lining up as an in-line tight end, detached, in the slot, as a wide receiver, and as an H-back over the course of a game. He proved able to be effective from each of those alignments. Okwuegbunam has a good ability to find and attack voids in coverage, either against shallow zone coverage or down the field on seam routes. He has a good ability to sink his hips and make sharp cuts for a larger player, which allows him to create separation on quick passes. On deeper routes he shows a good ability to track the ball in the air, adjust his routes and extend to catch the ball. And in the open field he is able to lengthen his stride and pick up yards after the catch, as well as power through poor tackle attempts.
Okwuegbunam is at his best blocking on the back side of outside zone runs or blocking against linebackers or defensive backs in space. Missouri would frequently use him at wide receiver to provide blocking for receiver bubble screens, and he is able to dominate smaller players.
Okwuegbunam does not have explosiveness as an athlete and has a tendency to roll out of his stance as a receiver. He also lacks burst in the open field, which can limit his separation or run after catch potential. When blocking, Okwuegbunam can be content to “catch” defenders and doesn’t always strike and drive when blocking head-on. He also needs to improve his leverage and pad level as a blocker.
Overall Grade: 6.1 - Has the traits to be a good back-up and potentially an acceptable starter on some teams. A mid-round value. [Grading Scale]
Albert Okwuegbunam has the potential to be a complete tight end, but he will need to improve his blocking. Okwuegbunam is not a quick-twitch athlete, but he has a good ability to find voids in coverage and the ball skills to maximize receiving windows. Early in his career he could be a dangerous weapon in the red zone for a team that uses 12-personnel packages and can put him in position to emphasize his current skill set.
He has the frame and enough athletic tools to eventually be a starter in the NFL, but currently he is better as a secondary tight end. He would be best brought on for his size and ball skills in short yardage or red zone situations, or to block for screen plays or on the perimeter. He will need to hone his craft as a blocker and continue to work on being crisp in his route running to reach his potential.