Evan Engram, the Butterfly Effect, and the Giants' OL

One of the darkest moments in recent Giants history came in November 2020 when Evan Engram failed to catch a beautiful 3rd down pass from Daniel Jones that would have cemented our first victory over the Eagles since forever:

As we all remember, the Eagles went on to drive down the field and score the winning TD. It stings a bit less since the Giants went on to beat the Eagles later in the season, and again once this season. But the ramifications of that drop were large. The Giants finished the season a game behind WFT. With a win in that game we would have tied WFT in the standings at 7-9 and won the division. Most likely we would have lost to TB, but of course you never know. Maybe it wouldn't have changed any of the other results of our season. There's no way to know, but it probably wouldn't have changed them for the worse. So let's assume that with a catch we finish 7-9 and are one-and-done in the playoffs.

So what does that mean for us today?

The most obvious impact of that loss, other than our missing the playoffs, is how it affected our draft position. If we had won that game and the division, we would have drafted at #19 or lower and WFT would have had the #11 pick. Things at the top of the draft would have been very different since Philly would have wound up at 3-12-1 and jumped ATL, CIN, MIA to have the #3 pick rather than the #6 pick they actually had. And since in the real universe Philly traded down with MIA from #6 to #12 and then again with DAL to go from #12 to #10, and since SF moved up to #3 in a trade with MIA, the rosters of a number of teams would have been very different. And that may have percolated down throughout the draft.

But the one fairly direct implication of the Engram drop is that we probably wouldn't have been sitting at a high enough draft position for CHI to trade with us to move up to take Justin Fields. So that means we would not be sitting today with a second round 1 draft pick at #7. Instead we would have picked no higher than #19 in 2021, where WFT picked instead and selected Jamin Davis. There were rumors the Giants liked Davis, so maybe we would have selected him instead of Kadarius Toney. Davis has been a disappointment so far for WFT, being benched in mid-season and winding up with a PFF grade of 43.3. Would he have been better than Tae Crowder? Maybe, maybe not.

I've used the "butterfly effect" analogy to describe this. That's not strictly correct. The butterfly effect is about how a small change (e.g., a butterfly flapping its wings) in what mathematicians call a chaotic system can result in big changes far down the line, e.g., a tornado weeks later in a different part of the world. The changes I'm talking about are more predictable than that - though not completely, I'm not sure how nonlinear the NFL is. Would the Giants being 2-5 rather than 1-6 after that game have had any effect the next week? Would Philly dropping to 1-5-1 rather than 2-4-1 have caused them to bench Wentz sooner? No way to know. Maybe George Bailey and "It's a Wonderful Life" is a better analogy. Whatever. But I claim poetic license.

So in April, when we use the #7 pick to draft Ikem Ekwonu, or Kenyon Green, or Tyler Linderbaum, or whoever you think we should take to turn our OL from Pottersville into Bedford Falls, take a moment to thank Evan Engram. We couldn't have done it without him.

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