As tight end Evan Engram heads into the fifth year of his NFL career, the New York Giants still aren’t completely sold on the fact that he can be their long-term solution at the position.
Engram is a polarizing talent that comes up with spectacular plays and then reverts back to his inadequate self, dropping passes and being directly connected to turnovers. In fact, during the 2020 season, Engram dropped 11 passes and was targeted on five of Daniel Jones’ five interceptions.
Nonetheless, general manager Dave Gettleman has already picked up his fifth-year option for 2021, elevating his pay from $2 million last year to $6 million next season. While his value can still be utilized on game day, I get the sense that the Giants don’t necessarily feel he can be their long term TE, given his inconsistencies in the receiving game.
Engram is primarily known as a receiving threat from the position, with lackluster in-line blocking abilities in the run game. He’s a decent pass blocker, realizing gradual improvement last season, but the Giants could look to the 2021 NFL draft for his eventual replacement.
Most are clamoring about Florida TE Kyle Pitts, but I highly doubt the Giants elect to go that route with the 11th overall pick. Despite Pitts being a wide receiver in a tight end’s body, they have other pressing needs, and I don’t feel confident Jason Garrett can utilize a player like Pitts to his maximum potential.
If not Pitts, the New York Giants can land another great prospect at TE:
However, Garrett does like to use 12 personnel a ton, which utilizes two TEs and one running back. We saw that frequently with Engram and Kaden Smith throughout the year, and there’s one tight end in the second round that could fit the bill perfectly.
Penn State TE Pat Freiermuth represents one of the best options at the position in 2021. During 2020, he recorded 310 receiving yards and one score, but he missed 11 games with a shoulder injury that required surgery. The year prior, in 2019, he helped his team provide seven scores and 507 yards to the air through 13 games. He was expected to take a significant leap forward, averaging 77.5 yards per game in 2020.
Nonetheless, his injury will likely have an effect on his draft stock, but he is the perfect player for the Giants if they want to take a flyer on him in the second round. It is possible he gets taken in the first, but I highly doubt teams will take an opportunity on him with more highly rated players on the board (and he’s coming off an injury-influenced season). However, at 22 years old, he’s a bit older for a rookie entering the NFL, but he has fantastic size to go with his skill set.
At 6-foot-5 and 258 pounds, Freiermuth is a quintessential receiving TE who can translate extremely well to the next level. He has a prototypical build for his position and has room to grow with his blocking. He’s not known for his in-line blocking abilities, but that aspect of his game was expected to take a significant step forward in 2020 before his shoulder injury ended his season prematurely.
The medical aspect will likely force him to drop in the draft, and he could fall right into the Giants’ laps. However, his value doesn’t come in the form of blocking, it comes in the form of versatility as a receiver and creating mismatches in coverage.
The NFL is a mismatch league, and acquiring a player like Pat who can dominate in man coverage against linebackers and utilize his big frame to box out corners and safeties, would be an excellent contribution to the Giants’ offense. In fact, it might be exactly what they’re looking for if Jason Garrett stays as the offensive coordinator. He likes big bodies, similar to Jason Witten from his past in Dallas, and Pat represents just that. He’s even more athletic than Witten was in his prime, but he’s not as refined in blocking. Compared to Engram, he has an additional 2 inches and 20 pounds, giving him that frame to develop his blocking technique and dominate in short/intermediate yardage situations.
If you pass or miss out on Kyle Pitts, I wouldn’t even sweat it. Penn State, TE Pat Freiermuth is an absolute UNIT.
— Ray G 🏁 (@RayGQue) January 16, 2021
Don’t be fooled, though, as he averaged 13.5 yards per reception in 2020, indicating he can get downfield quickly and make plays in traffic. He’s an extremely underrated prospect that should be receiving more attention, and I believe he might be a perfect fit in 12 personnel with Garrett and the Giants.