The New York Giants have had a successful offseason. However, a pass catching tight end remains one of the last few missing puzzle pieces.
To put it in layman’s terms, the New York Giants offense was not very good in 2016. While that might be an oversimplification, it should not be understated how much of an issue the tight end position has become.
General manager Jerry Reese has had a successful offseason keeping his stout defense in tact while making upgrades on the offense. Brandon Marshall‘s two year deal was a bargain signing for a proven commodity and DJ Fluker’s size and toughness could boost an underwhelming offensive line. The o-line still needs help, but the rest of the offense is in much better shape than it was one year ago. That is, with the exception of the tight end position.
Reese also brought in former Minnesota Viking Rhett Ellison, though he figures to be more of a versatile blocker than a playmaking pass catcher. He caught just nine passes last season and has never recorded more more than 19 catches in a single season.
Will Tye has caught 90 passes over the past two seasons, but looks far from a pro bowl caliber talent. He’ll make near the league minimum next season and it’s unclear if the Giants trust him as the long term answer.
Eli Manning likes to work the middle of the field, but it’s not as easy without an athletic, pass catching tight end. Tye was targeted 4.5 times per game last season, 27th amongst tight ends. However, he was targeted at least five times or more in seven separate contests. That number is only sure to increase with a more proven pass catcher at the position.
Throughout Manning’s career, he hasn’t had many top tier tight ends to throw to. One good season from Martellus Bennett in 2012 remains the best talent Manning has worked with at the position. Imagine if he had a sure handed target who could also make plays in the red zone?
The tight end position is so crucial for the Giants because of the opportunity that will come with it. Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall will command enough attention on the outside while Sterling Shepard has to be respected coming out of the slot. This means Giant tight ends are likely to see numerous one on one match-ups. Safeties also are likely to shade towards Beckham, which could open up the middle of the field.
The NFL draft is less than a month away and numerous prospects could entice the front office. Historically, Jerry Reese’s regime has not selected tight ends early in the draft, though this could be the year that changes.
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O.J. Howard is the consensus top prospect at the tight end position and is likely to be off the board when the Giants pick at 23. Miami’s David Njoku is projected to go in the first round in many mocks and could land with New York in round one. Should the Giants wait until day two, Ole Miss’s Evan Engram, Clemson’s Jordan Leggett and Michigan’s Jake Butt, amongst others, headline a talented second tier of playmakers.
It’s no secret that the New York Giants have issues along the offensive line. That could easily be the team’s top priority heading into draft day. However, this year’s prospects in the offensive trenches aren’t nearly as strong as in years past which could lead Reese and company to look for a tight end within the first three rounds.
While the offensive line remains a glaring need, adding a tight end early in the draft could alleviate some of the pressure the line faces in 2017.