Evan Engram can be extremely versatile if he’s healthy. That’s a big “if” though, and the New York Giants must address his future.
Nearly three years ago, the New York Giants selected Evan Engram out of Ole Miss with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The tight end was supposed to bolster a Giants roster that just made the postseason the previous campaign, as he was extremely versatile and athletic for his position.
In spite of the team struggling in 2017 (finishing 3-13), Engram was a bright spot, totaling 64 receptions for 722 yards and six touchdowns. Fans believed they had their tight end for the future. A lot has changed since then though.
Engram was a disappointment in 2018 and 2019, and many fans would like to say goodbye ahead of next season. Yes, he’s talented if he’s healthy. But that’s a big “if,” and there are a number of reasons why Big Blue must ultimately listen to the fans’ wishes.
1. The durability issue
During his inaugural campaign in the pros, Engram only missed a single game. You obviously want your players to suit up every week, but 15 matchups is a decent amount that doesn’t worry fans too much.
His health has been the complete opposite over the last pair of seasons though.
In 2018, the then-second-year pro missed a total of five games. He then missed eight games in 2019, putting his career total at 14 missed contests. Yes, nearly an entire season of missed matchups through his initial trio of campaigns. Engram will additionally miss all of the offseason due to the lingering foot injury he suffered in 2019.
Each season has entailed different injuries as well. Along with the foot setback in this past year, Engram missed the one matchup in 2017 due to a bruised rib. He then missed three games in 2018 due to an MCL sprain and then two matchups after succumbing to a hamstring pull. Not to mention, he additionally suffered a concussion during the 2018 preseason.
With Engram additionally missing all of this offseason, it’s caused the Giants to rethink his future with the ballclub, according to Matthew Berry of ESPN.
Berry writes, “An inside source says the Giants don’t believe Evan Engram can ever stay healthy. The source believes Engram is a candidate to be traded during the upcoming season.”
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman — who joined the organization after the drafting of Engram — recently had some related words to say at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“Hurt guys get hurt. That’s a phrase we have in scouting,” he told Paul Dottino and John Schmeelk of Big Blue Kickoff Live. “It’s just the truth. It’s very difficult for hurt guys to last. They just manage to get hurt.”
What is Engram? Hurt. What has Engram consistently done? Gotten hurt.
Don’t be surprised if the durability issue is all the Giants need to eventually send him packing.
2. Kaden Smith may have a better connection with Daniel Jones
When Engram is healthy, he’s a decent option in the passing game for Daniel Jones. But if we’re going to be completely honest, so is backup tight end Kaden Smith, who impressed during the backend of his rookie campaign last year.
The significant quality coaches should focus on with tight ends — at least in the passing game — is how well of a connection they can establish with their respective starting quarterbacks. Eli Manning possessed effective connections with a multitude of tight ends over the years, and this organization hopes Jones can do the same.
Let’s compare and contrast the numbers.
In six games in which Jones started last year (and Engram was targeted at least once), Engram recorded 27 receptions (4.5 per game) on 46 targets (7.67 per game) for 303 yards (50.5 per game) and a pair of scores (.33 per game). He also put together a 6.6 yards-per-target rate and a 58.7% catch percentage.
Smith, on the other hand, has had at least one target in five games that Jones has started. In those five contests, the young tight end had 26 total catches (5.2 per game) on 34 targets (6.8 per game) for 221 yards (44.2 per game) and three touchdowns (.6 per game). Smith also put up a 6.5 yards-per-target rate and a 75.5% reception rate.
That means — with the aforementioned guidelines — Smith actually records more average receptions on fewer average targets, which leads to a higher catch percentage than Engram. Kaden also has a higher average number of touchdowns than the Giants’ primary tight end. Smith additionally has just .1 fewer yards-per-target and 6.3 fewer receiving yards-per-game than Engram.
And don’t forget, we’re comparing a first-round talent to a sixth-round talent. The 49ers originally selected Smith with the No. 176 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
3. The eventual, and possibly expensive, second contract
Engram is currently portraying his talents on a four-year deal worth over $10 million. The Giants could decide to pick up the fifth-year option. But after year No. 5 — which would be after the 2021 campaign — the Giants would have to decide whether he’s worth a long-term deal. There’s also a good chance he’ll ask for a significant amount of money in his second contract.
That being said, expect this upcoming year to be Engram’s final campaign in blue.
The Giants shouldn’t keep Engram in their plans for after 2021, so there’s no point in retaining him for a fifth season. When you’re a rebuilding franchise — which the Giants are right now — the last thing you should do is spend loads of money on a player that doesn’t deserve it.
Engram isn’t worth a significant amount of money right now. He’s too prone to setbacks and isn’t that much more productive in the passing game than Smith. With Smith, you have someone who’s cheap, healthy (hopefully), and can have just as effective of a connection with the quarterback.
If Berry’s source is correct and the Giants do end up placing Engram on the trading block this season, then they’re making the correct move. Ship him off to a playoff contender and receive something in return. You’d part ways with him — which is what needs to be done — and you’d receive either a player or draft picks, or possibly both. It would be a win-win situation.