The Giant Insider Online

Is Evan Engram Poised to Become Greatest TE in Giants History?

Evan Engram led all NFL rookie tight ends in receptions (64) and receiving yards (722) in 2017. Overall, he finished sixth in the league in receptions and fifth in yards putting him up with the elite TEs in the NFL even though he only started 11 games.

The expectations for the Giants’ first round pick in last year’s NFL Draft are high. He is not the traditional ‘in-line’ TE but more of a slot receiver of flanker. His size (6’3″, 240) is slightly below what the Giants are normally used to at the position but his speed (4.42 in the 40) isn’t normal for them, either. He is a pleasant problem, an addition to their offense they can use to exploit defense with.

The Giants have had some great tight ends throughout their history. Mark Bavaro, Jeremy Shockey, Bob Tucker and Aaron Thomas have set the bar high for all that followed. Engram came out of the chute by breaking or tying many NFL rookie records for tight ends, including being the first NFC rookie TE since 1970 with 400 or more receiving yards and four or more touchdown catches through the first eight games of the season.

Engram has an opportunity to become the best of the bunch. Here are some of the franchise’s single-season tight end records within his reach:

Receptions: Jeremy Shockey,  74 (2002)

Shockey was perhaps the best athlete/specimen (6’5″, 255) the Giants have ever had at the position. He had the size, speed and football acumen to become one of the greatest TEs of all time. You know the rest. That doesn’t take away from his meteoric first couple of seasons with Big Blue.

As a rookie, Shockey caught 74 passes, the most by a TE that season and was named a first-team All-Pro. He played in 15 games that year, the same number as Engram last season, but the only difference was he held on to more passes (Engram led all NFL TEs with 11 drops). For all his mismatches and accomplishments as a rookie, Shockey only scored two TDs.

Receiving Yards: Mark Bavaro, 1,001 (1986)

Bavaro was a first team All-Pro is carving his legacy with a hard-nosed, physical style highlighted by his famous Monday Night ramble in which he carried five 49er defenders on his back for twenty yards. Bavaro caught 66 passes in the season that saw the Giants win the NFL Championship for the first time in 30 years. He averaged 15.2 yards per reception, which was the highest of any TE who had 35 or more catches that season.

The 66 grabs was by far the most of any Giant that year. The next player was RB Tony Galbreath with 33. QB Phil Simms didn’t have many options in the passing game tother than Bavaro. The top WRs in ’86 were Bobby Johnson (31 catches) and Stacy Robinson (29).

Its unlikely that Engram will get anywhere close to this as long as Beckham, Shepard and Barkley are around. He would have to break some big plays each week in order to eclipse this mark. It’s doable, and he has the ability but getting the opportunity is going to be the problem.

Touchdowns: Mark Bavaro, 8 (1987) 

Bavaro was a beast in 1986 and came back with a fury in ’87. Unfortunately for him (and the Giants), there was a player strike that limited the season to 15 games (with Weeks 4-6 being conducted with replacement players). So, Bavaro only got to play 12 games in 1987 and his eight TDs ranked third in the NFL behind Jerry Rice’s incredible 22 and Philly’s Mike Quick, who had 11.

Engram caught six TD in his 15 games but, like we noted earlier, had the dropsies, so it should have been more. This year, he’ll have a lot of company in the red zone, so overtaking Bavaro’s mark here will be a challenge.

Receiving Yards Per Game: Mark Bavaro, 72.3 (1987)

Engram averaged only 48.1 yards per game in 2017 but keep in mind, he played in 15 games but started only 11. Throw in the fact that he was asked to run short routes (as were all Giant receivers) and his low output makes sense. Engram’s longest reception was for 35 yards. His 48.1 YPG wasn’t bad as far TEs go. Only four TEs had better YPG averages: Rob Gronkowski (77.4), Travis Kelce (69.2), Zack Ertz (58.9) and Delanie Walker (50.4).

The record will be tough for Engram to top since both Odell Beckham, Jr. and Sterling Shepard are back and healthy. OBJ had an average of 75.5 over four games last year and Shepard averaged 66.5. They will likely continue at those rates – or greater – in 2018 under the new offense.

Targets: Jeremy Shockey, 128 (2002)

Targets have only been a stat since the 1992 season so we don’t know what Bavaro’s numbers were over the years and we’re not totally sure if the Shockey numbers are correct either as technology has changed so rapidly since then. But there’s no reason to believe that he didn’t have 128 targets in 2002. Kerry Collins was the QB and he was slinging, attempting 545 passes which was the second-most in Giants’ history to that point (he had 568 in 2001). In fact, Shockey wasn’t even his primary receiver that year. Amani Toomer, with 134 targets, was.

Engram had 115 targets, the most ever by an NFL rookie, and like we’ve already told you, Engram had the opportunity to take the lion’s share of the team’s targets after OBJ and Shepard went down but his target totals remained the same. This year, if the other two stay healthy and Saquon Barkley gets his 20-25 touches, there won’t be a lot leftover for Engram to handle.

Yards Per Reception (over 30 yards): Jake Ballard, 15.89 (2011)

This stat doesn’t seem like it’s very important, especially for tight ends who by design catch the football in short yardage and goal line situations. But Engram is a different type of player. He’s a weapon with his size/speed combination and the Giants will want to get him deeper into opponents’ secondaries and create mismatches to improve on his 11.3 YPC average.

Ballard was able to average nearly 16 yards per catch in 2011 because he was a surprise-type player that defenses basically left alone or in light coverage. Most teams thought Ballard was just a blocker, but the Giants found out that he had good hands and after Kevin Boss left for Oakland in free agency, they needed a TE to pick of the slack. Ballard ended up catching 38 passes for 604 yards and 4 TD in 2011. Many of those receptions were, in effect, uncontested, leaving Ballard to gain significant yards after the catch.

Engram has big play capability but heavily-used tight ends usually average around 11-12. Gronkowski averaged 15.7 last year but that’s Gronk. Can Engram be as good as him? The Giants would love that…

 

 

 

 

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