With the 23rd pick in the first round of the NFL Draft last week, the New York Giants selected tight end Evan Engram. The former standout for Ole Miss will give New York the versatility it needs to compete in the NFC East.
New York hasn’t had an alpha dog at the tight end position since 2002 when the Giants drafted 6-foot-5 inch, 251-pound Jeremy Shockey out of Miami in the first round. In five of six seasons with the Giants, Shockey had at least 50 receptions for 600-plus yards. In three of those six seasons, Shockey had at least six touchdown catches. Last season, the Giants did not have a solid asset at the tight end spot, with Will Tye catching only 48 passes out of 70 targets from quarterback Eli Manning.
Engram, who became Ole Miss’ 23rd first-round selection, is different from Shockey–and possibly far better. If needed, Engram can play at wide receiver since he’s just as fast as new Giants teammate Odell Beckham, Jr. Engram ran a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, the best time of all the tight ends, and fifth-fastest time amongst all wide receivers.
For the Rebels, Engram, a 6-3, 235-pound Georgia native, became the all-time leader in receptions (162), receiving yards (2,320), and touchdown catches (15).
Engram can line up like a traditional tight end, but with his speed, linebackers will have a hard time trying to stay in front of him. He presents a downfield presence that Manning will be thankful to have, since both Beckham and newly acquired Brandon Marshall are deep route receivers.
Jerry Reese, the general manager of the New York Giants, compared Engram to Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed, who’s also known for his pass-catching ability. Reese added: “We think he can be a dynamic weapon in our offense.”
Reese also added Engram could be a “matchup nightmare” for opposing defenses, while Giants head coach Ben McAdoo called Engram a “willing striker.”
Engram is the most athletic tight end on New York’s roster. The Giants return Fye and have also picked up Rhett Ellison from the Minnesota Vikings in free agency. Ellison is exclusively known for his blocking, and Engram can benefit from playing alongside him.
Last season, former Rebel Manning targeted Odell Beckham Jr. 169 times, connecting on 101 passes. Sterling Shepard was the second-most targeted receiver for Manning at 105. Shepard caught only 65 of those pass attempts. Not having a solid second option derailed the Giants’ offense and forced them to be one-dimensional, as Victor Cruz missed most of the season with a knee injury.
McAdoo’s offense finished the 2016 season ranked 17th in the NFL in passing yards per game (242.4), and 25th in total offense (330.7).
Three additional Rebels drafted
On the final day of the NFL Draft, three other Ole Miss Rebels were selected. Defensive tackle D.J. Jones was selected 198th overall in the sixth round by the San Francisco 49ers. Defensive back Derrick Jones, who played three positions at Ole Miss, went 204th overall to the New York Jets. Jones is the first Rebels corner to be taken in the draft since Senquez Golson was taken in the second round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015. In the final pick of the draft at 253rd overall, the Denver Broncos selected quarterback Chad Kelly, making him the first Ole Miss quarterback taken since Eli Manning in 2004.
(Photo credit for images of D.J. Jones, Derrick Jones and Chad Kelly: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)
Seven talented Rebels find a home through free agency
Other Ole Miss Rebels found homes at the conclusion of the NFL draft. Wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow will sign a rookie free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins. Wideout Quincy Adeboyejo and cornerback Carlos Davis will sign with the Baltimore Ravens. Offensive lineman Jeremy Liggins and defensive back Tony Bridges will join the Seattle Seahawks. Running back Akeem Judd will sign with the Tennessee Titans, and defensive end Fadol Brown will join the Oakland Raiders.
(Gallery credits: Carlos Davis, Tony Bridges, Akeem Judd, Fadol Brown, Quincy Adeboyejo, Jeremy Liggins-Dan Anderson; Damore’ea Stringfello-Amanda Swain)