Evan Engram’s size and speed enamored the New York Giants enough to make him their first-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. The rookie tight end from Ole Miss is 6-foot-3 and weighs 234 pounds and ran a 4.42 40-yard dash.
Despite his vital statistics, Engram is going to learn the traditional tight end position (the Y) in head coach Ben McAdoo’s version of the West Coast offense. He will also learn the U position, which will move him around when the Giants play with two tight ends on the field.
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“He’s in our tight end room. He’s a tight end,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said during last week’s rookie mini-camp.
McAdoo reaffirmed Sullivan’s statement.
“Engram will play tight end for us,” McAdoo said. “And we will use him where he is comfortable and where he can grow.”
The Giants have no plans to use Engram as a “big wide receiver” even though his size is comparable to that of free agent signee Brandon Marshall. Marshall is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds.
“What I meant was, often times, people might look at him and say he’s just going to be there to be split out wide, and when you think of a big wide receiver, in my mind, I think of Brandon Marshall, Plaxico Burress, that’s a big wide receiver,” Sullivan said.
“This is someone who has some of that upper body strength and the size where he can fill some of those roles we want as a tight end, and we’re going to be selective in the things we want him to do. But he is not someone who you’ll see strictly as someone that is displaced out in the slot that is just a bigger body. He’s a versatile player, he’s a tough guy, and we’re excited about seeing what we can do with him.”
Engram was brought in to give the Giants a deep threat down the middle of the field, something the offense has been missing in recent years. He will be matched up against linebackers and safeties where his speed will catch defenders off guard.
The Giants were enamored by Engram’s ability to get yards after the catch, something the Giants’ tight ends struggled with in 2016. Will Tye, Jerell Adams, and Larry Donnell collectively averaged 7.7 yards after the catch, easily the worst in the NFL.
Engram’s biggest knock is his blocking. He didn’t have to do much of it at Ole Miss. It doesn’t really matter if Engram is a great blocker or not. The Giants acquired Rhett Ellison in free agency to do the blocking on first down and in run situations.
McAdoo had tight ends lining up everywhere last season, including in the backfield because both fullbacks were lost with season-ending injuries. Ellison was brought in part because he also plays fullback. If the Giants maintain a full arsenal throughout 2017, the tight ends won’t be blocking as much.
“Everything is going to be a challenge (for Engram),” McAdoo said. “He is coming from more of a spread type offense where he was off the ball a ton. We will have him play off of the ball a little bit. We won’t just have him out there in 11 personnel, we will mix him in.”
McAdoo will not make any significant changes to his offense, the dominant personnel grouping being one tight end, one running back, and three wide receivers. However, the addition of Engram (as well as Marshall) will give the offense options they didn’t have last season.
“We have a system of offense in place and we can play any personnel group under the sun with that offense,” McAdoo said. “We try to use the players to their strengths the best we can, and we will have something in place for (Engram) if he becomes a big factor for us on the offensive side of the ball as a rookie.”