New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Atlanta Falcons

London’s calling the New York Jets, who will battle the Atlanta Falcons overseas in an interconference matchup in Week 5.

The Opponent: Atlanta Falcons
The Date: Week 5, 9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network (@ London, England)
The Series: Atlanta leads 7-5 (last meeting: 2017, 25-20 ATL)

American soil hasn’t been too kind to the New York Jets. Perhaps a semester abroad can do them some good.

The Jets play on a different continent for the first time since 2015, as they’ll battle the Atlanta Falcons in a British-based interconference matchup. New York won in their lone appearance in the NFL’s International Series, topping the Miami Dolphins at the rebooted Wembley Stadium.

Previous international business trips for the Jets include a visit up north to play the Buffalo Bills in Toronto back in 2009 and preseason contests in Montreal (1988) and Tokyo (2003). Atlanta, coming off a garish four-win campaign, hasn’t played overseas since 2014, when they dropped a 22-21 heartbreaker to Detroit, also at Wembley.

The Skinny On the Falcons

A new era has dawned in Atlanta. Matt Ryan is back for his 14th season as the Falcons’ franchise quarterback (the Jets have started 13 different throwers in that span) but franchise staple Julio Jones has moved on to Nashville. Atlanta also dismissed general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn, each of whom was only four years removed from a Super Bowl appearance.

There’s a lot of things new in Atlanta (more on that in a minute). Several franchise faces that made that Super Bowl run have vanished, but Ryan has remained eternal. Having turned 36 in May, his contract dictates that he has at least two more years left as the Falcons’ man under center. Atlanta drove that point home by refusing to name an heir apparent. The role of Ryan’s understudy is down to a competition between undrafted Felipe Franks and NFL nomad Josh Rosen.

“We studied every drop-back pass, every play-action pass, everything that Matt did this past year,” new Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London said after the team passed (pun intended) on several high-profile throwers at the 2021 draft, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We thought as a staff that he was still performing at a high level. He could still do everything that was needed to do to run this offense…He’s been doing it in this league for a long time at a high level. We expect that to continue this year.”

With Jones dealt away to the Titans, Ryan has found a new favorite target in Calvin Ridley, who established himself as one of the most prominent deep-ball threats for years to come with a career-best 1,374 yards. Russell Gage quietly set new personal highs in the slot and will take on full No. 2 receiver duties in Jones’ absence.

New York Giants, Kyle Pitts
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New In Atlanta?

In the apparent name of building one last Super Bowl map for Ryan, the Falcons retooled this offseason. Arthur Smith takes over as head coach after turning the Titans’ offense into a juggernaut while former New Orleans rival Terry Fontenot was named the general manager. Granted their highest first-round pick since they chose Ryan third overall in 2008, the Falcons defined the concept of taking the “best player available” through the selection of tight end Kyle Pitts. The Florida alum’s other-worldly size (i.e. a jaw-dropping 83-3/8 inch wingspan) allowed the Falcons to feel comfortable in biding their time in finding Ryan’s successor.

Atlanta also underwent extensive renovations to their run game. The team bid farewell to 1,411 yards of production in the form of the Todd Gurley/Brian Hill/Ito Smith group and signed ex-division rival Mike Davis, who rose to the occasion after the Christian McCaffrey nightmare in Charlotte. In terms of protection, cap reasons forced the Falcons to let offensive line staple Alex Mack go. Matt Hennessy (brother of Jets long snapper Thomas) appears poised to take over the role, having beat out fourth-round selection Drew Dalman.

Provided Ryan remains reliable and Pitts fulfills expectations, the Falcons’ biggest issues lie on defense (which was overseen by new Jets defensive boss Jeff Ulbrich after Quinn’s firing). Atlanta also completely overhauled their safeties room (a group that included current Jet Sharrod Neasman) with free agent newcomers Duron Harmon and Erik Harris the favorites to take over. Succeeding Ulbrich is Smith’s former Nashville comrade Dean Pees, who brings two Super Bowl rings with him.

How to Beat Them

-Deploy the Royal Air Force

The Falcons’ defensive revolution was necessitated by a garish effort in the secondary, as they surrendered an NFL-worst 293 yards through the air last season. They allowed at least 300 yards in nine games, going 2-7 in such contests…five of those losses were single possession games. Their attempts to shore things up when beyond Harmon and Harris: Atlanta used second (Richie Grant) and fourth-round (San Diego State blitzer Darren Hall) picks on secondary help and also added sizable man-to-man veteran Fabian Moreau after four seasons in Washington.

Harmon, a Rutgers alum who came over from Detroit, acknowledged that while there’s a positive outlook at the Falcons’ defensive future, it’s going to take some time to develop chemistry.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to take reps,” Harmon said in another report from Ledbetter. “Not just reps on the practice field, but reps in the film room. Reps at walk-throughs. Reps with us just getting together and talking ball. It’s going to take time.”

Zach Wilson thus has an early opportunity to air the ball out against a fledgling unit on a stage that all eyes of the football-loving nation(s) will be watching. If the Jets can take advantage of this opportunity, it can help Wilson and their own developing offense generate some early momentum in a nationally televised game.

-Melt Matty

It becomes a bit more difficult with the loss of Carl Lawson, but the Jets should oblige Ryan’s request to prove he still has enough in the tank. Despite several question marks surrounding the Dirty Birds, they’re capable of putting up big numbers of both the fantasy and physical scoreboards at a moment’s notice with the offensive firepower in tow.

With the Jets’ secondary likewise set to go through their own transitional period…especially with matchups against the weaponry of Carolina, Tennessee, and Atlanta on the docket in the early going…upping the pressure against a 36-year-old quarterback will be more important than ever. Over the past two seasons, Atlanta is 2-9 when Ryan is blitzed at least 15 times.

As anyone who attended that heartbreaker against Las Vegas can attest to, the Jets had no issues blitzing under Gregg Williams’ watch (ranking sixth in blitz rate). Even with Lawson done for the year, they have the personnel to raise the heat this time around. 2020 breakouts Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, and John Franklin-Myers are a year older and they’ll also have Sheldon Rankins and Shaq Lawson in tow as well.

Robert Saleh is used to making the most of a makeshift pass rush, posting respectable results when the dominant forces of the San Francisco front seven were obliterated by the injury bug. Making the aging Ryan uncomfortable will be vital if the Jets hope to bring a victorious souvenir back from London.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

GMFB proposed ludicrous New York Giants trade up for Kyle Pitts

New York Giants, Kyle Pitts

There have been rumors that New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman is enamored by Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, and my response to that would be, who isn’t?

Pitts is considered one of the best playmakers in this draft class, as analysts believe he’s not simply an in-line TE but can also play receiver on the outside and the slot. His diverse makeup makes him not only an incredible talent but a gold standard prospect as we near the 2021 NFL draft.

While Pitts started out as a mid-round selection several months ago, he has quickly gained steam, and most teams believe he’ll be selected in the top 10 picks, as the Giants wait patiently at 11 for a miracle to happen.

However, GMFB proposed a ludicrous trade-up scenario that would involve the Giants parting ways with significant draft capital, despite the fact that they have an opportunity to land an elite prospect at 11 anyway.

New York Giants trade up to #4 with the Atlanta Falcons:

Atlanta gives up: 2021 1st round pick (#4)

New York gives up: 2021 first-round pick (#11), 2021 second-round pick (#42), 2022 first-round pick, Evan Engram

In this scenario, the Giants give up two first-round picks, a second-rounder, and their starting tight end to Atlanta for Kyle. This is an astronomical deal for a non-quarterback, and if the Giants made this, they would be castrating their future flexibility in the draft for years to come.

In fact, this is a step-by-step breakdown of how to ruin a developing team in one off-season. Draft capital is extremely important for a rebuild, especially when you were trying to add depth and even starting level talent to multiple positions of weakness. GMFB so graciously sells the farm for Pitts, who is a fantastic talent, but the Giants are going to have a fair shot a DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, and even Micah Parsons, who are all considered some of the best players in this draft class.

We can grade this scenario as an F+, considering the Giants only have six selections this year and need all of their picks to bolster their depth and add a few productive talents in the early rounds. If the Giants managed to grab Smith or Waddle and add an interior OL in the second round, you could argue that would be a far more efficient draft strategy than selling out for Pitts.

New York Giants: Time to move on from Kyle Pitts draft talk

New York Giants, Kyle Pitts

During the offseason so far, one of the players linked to the New York Giants the most has been Kyle Pitts. The tight end is athletic, has a good record as both a receiver and a more traditional tight end, and could be the best playmaker to come out at the position since Rob Gronkowski. Some say he might become the highest drafted tight end in the modern era.

However, even if the New York Giants have a chance to take him with the eleventh pick, they should pass on him. And it looks like the front office knows that too, based on the way they signed tight end Kyle Rudolph this offseason.

Rudolph isn’t Pitts. He’s 31 years old and nobody is expecting off the charts production from him, even if he does have a history of being a red zone threat tight end. He is, however, joining a position group that already includes Evan Engram – primarily a receiving tight end.

Pitts would be a good weapon to add, but at some point, the Giants have to consider their roster. They’re already banking on the potential of one receiving tight end. They don’t need to add another one while they still have Engram in the starting lineup and other big needs. And even if they did add Pitts, it’s debatable if they could get the most out of both him and Engram at the same time.

There’s usually more wide receivers on the field than tight ends, after all. And it’s harder for tight ends to get open if the receivers can’t take the attention of the defense.

The Giants have a need at receiver among other spots that need patching up. Their decision to go with Rudolph to bolster the position instead of the flashy draft pick shows where their likely priorities are on the matter: address other needs in the draft, and don’t take the big name tight end that likely can’t be fully utilized.

New York Giants should target TE Kyle Pitts for these 3 reasons

New York Giants, Kyle Pitts

The New York Giants desperately need an offensive playmaker in the 2021 NFL draft, and Florida TE Kyle Pitts could fit the bill perfectly. As a dominant threat in man coverage, Pitts has the ability to overpower corners and align in several different spots.

Pitts could be the next big thing in the NFL, considering his revolutionary style of play, and most consider him the epitome of the modern-day tight end. For Florida last year, Kyle hauled in 770 yards and 12 touchdowns over eight games. He’s dominant in the red zone and would offer a quarterback Daniel Jones an outlet not only as a security blanket but as an every-play receiver.

Here are three reasons the New York Giants should consider drafting the stand out TE:

1.) Kyle Pitts is only 20 years old

Looking at Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith out of Alabama, both receivers are 22 years old. Pitts, who has the ability to play X, Z, and in the slot, is only 20 years old and hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential. Not to say that the receivers won’t do the same, but Pitts has two additional years to find his underlying potential and maximize his physical traits.

At 6’6” and 246 pounds, not only is he a big body with the route running of a receiver, but he can line up as a traditional tight end and block in the running game. He needs to add a bit more muscle mass and refine his technique in that category, but if he develops properly, he has top-3 potential at the position in the NFL.

2.) Kyle Pitts didn’t drop a SINGLE pass in 2020

One of the biggest liabilities for the Giants currently is Evan Engram, who dropped a significant number of passes which ended up being significant to the Giants’ playoffs helps in 2020. Some might look at Pitts and compare them to Engram as a primary receiving option of the position, but there’s a simple difference, he doesn’t drop the football.

In fact, Pitts didn’t have a drop on 65 targets, as he was the only receiver in college football to have zero drops when commanding at least 65 targets. His reliable hands make him a fantastic threat in all facets, especially with a quarterback like Jones that spreads the ball around the field.

3.) Kyle Pitts is a dominant man-coverage receiver

Not only can Pitts dominate in the short/intermediate ranges of the field, but he is also capable of thriving as a vertical threat. He lead all TEs last year in catches and yards on targets when being thrown the ball 20+ yards from the line of scrimmage.

Considering Giants’ offensive coordinator Jason Garrett loves to utilize man coverage matchups, Pitts would be an absolute perfect scheme fit, especially when lined up outside against undersize corners. He’s a mismatch nightmare, and in 12 personnel with Engram, if they don’t trade the former first-round pick, the pair would simply be unguardable.

New York Giants could fix their offense by selecting Kyle Pitts in the NFL Draft

New York Giants, Kyle Pitts

The New York Giants‘ offense was putrid in 2020. Only one offense scored less points than the Giants last season. The Giants averaged only 17.5 points per game, a number that cannot translate to a winning season in today’s NFL.

The number one priority for the Giants this offseason will be to upgrade the offense. In fact, co-owner John Mara and general manager Dave Gettleman promised to add playmakers in the 2021 offseason. This has led to plenty of speculation amongst Giants fans, discussing who New York might target in free agency and the draft.

One intriguing name that has been linked to the Giants is tight end Kyle Pitts out of the University of Florida. This is an interesting prospect for the Giants to consider. New York already has an established, Pro Bowl tight end in Evan Engram. But Engram’s 2020 season left many fans frustrated and disappointed. This could lead the Giants to draft the ultra-talented Kyle Pitts in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Kyle Pitts stats and highlights

In 2020, Evan Engram was a turnover machine for the Giants. Engram dropped 11 passes last season, many of which led to interceptions. In fact, 6 passes intended for Evan Engram turned into interceptions in 2020, plus he lost one fumble and, while Daniel Jones was credited with this fumble, Engram also dropped a backwards pass from Jones that became a turnover.

There is nothing from Kyle Pitts’s collegiate career that indicates he would have problems like this in the NFL. Pitts was targeted 66 times in 2020. He hauled in 43 catches and had an incredible total of 0 drops. Not a single pass was dropped by Pitts in 2020. He was a truly reliable and dynamic receiving threat.

Not only is Kyle Pitts a dependable receiving option, he also has the ability to make electrifying plays downfield. Pitts wins at every level in a variety of ways. He has elite route-running skills for his position and the ability to make jaw-dropping catches. He lines up as an in-line tight end but also out wide or in the slot as a receiver with great efficiency.

Pitts is not a perfect prospect by any means. He is not the best blocker as an in-line tight end and is more of a wide receiver than a tight end at this point in his career. But he has the tools and traits to be molded into one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Pitts’s receiving skills are so advanced that he would be a first-round pick as a wide receiver.

In his big 6 foot 6 inch, 240 pound tight end body, there are few players at the position more dynamic than Kyle Pitts. He is truly worthy of a top-ten pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and if he is available for the selection at eleven overall, he should end up wearing a New York Giants uniform.

New York Giants: ESPN’s Todd McShay projects offensive weapon to Big Blue

New York Giants, Kyle Pitts

The New York Giants are in the market for a premier offensive playmaker, especially after the Giants’ unit averaged just 17.5 points per game in 2020. Coordinator Jason Garrett failed to get things going with a lack of weapons, and while he did have Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard at his disposal, a spotty offensive line and losing Saquon Barkley early on significantly hurt his creative spirit.

Management has vowed to improve the talent on offense this off-season, whether it be through free agency or the 2021 NFL draft. There are fantastic options to choose from, ranging from Kenny Golladay to Jaylen Waddle out of Alabama. However, one ESPN analyst has the Giants taking a versatile weapon that could change the nature of the position forever.

ESPN’s Todd McShay projects elite offensive weapon to New York Giants:

TE: Kyle Pitts

With the top three wide receivers and top two cornerbacks off the board, filling those needs would mean significant reaches for the Giants here. Offensive line could be in play, as could the edge rush. But if Pitts is still there at No. 11, it’d be really hard for New York to do anything but add the 6-6 speedy and versatile matchup nightmare. Giants tight end Evan Engram has missed 14 games over four years and will be a free agent after next season. In the meantime, the Giants could enjoy a fantastic duo at tight end — Pitts is versatile enough to play with Engram and be moved around the formation — and provide quarterback Daniel Jones with a playmaker.

Pitts has the potential to be one of the more dynamic tight ends in the NFL. The Giants already have Engram, but he’s only on his rookie deal for one more season after they picked up his fifth-year option 2020. Pitts offers a bit more efficiency in the receiving department, with fantastic hands and elite route running for a TE.

He finished the 2020 season with 43 receptions, 770 yards, and 12 scores. He was a focal point for the Florida offense, and at 6’6” and 246 pounds, he has the ability to cross-train at wide receiver, making him even more dynamic. As a former four-star recruit out of HS, Kyle has always been in the spotlight, but as outplayed counterpart Brevin Jordan recently.

How would Pitts elevate the Giants’ offense?

Pitts can align as a traditional TE in line, in the slot, or as a wideout as the “X” receiver. With elite route running for a player at his position, he can dominate corners with his large size and win 50/50 balls routinely. He is the perfect fit for Jason Garrett’s scheme — a coordinator who likes to utilize man coverage and attack cornerbacks with their back turned to the ball.

Analysts say he is a willing run blocker, which doesn’t exactly promote optimism. He needs to refine his abilities as an in-line blocker, but he has the size and room for growth. He’s mostly being targeted as a receiving threat at the TE position, which is how the modern NFL is progressing.

A player of his talents would immediately inject a playmaker into the New York Giants’ offense, and one that could likely revolutionize the way they go about their scheme. With the return of Saquon Barkley and fundamental growth in the trenches, he would offer DJ a security blanket and also a vertical weapon.

New York Giants: Kyle Pitts mocked to NYG by Mel Kiper Jr.

New York Giants, Kyle Pitts

Mel Kiper Jr. has one of the more respected mock drafts every year, and so far, he has the New York Giants taking tight end Kyle Pitts. The Giants already have one starting tight end who is considered to have big potential as a receiving target, of course. But Evan Engram hasn’t done everything the Giants have wanted since drafting him, and some think the team will take a chance on bringing in another tight end in the draft.

Pitts has a similar scouting report to Engram when he came out of college. Both players are at the tight end position but are expected to make an impact in the receiving game for their teams and are considered to have the skills to play out wide as a receiver.

What does Pitts bring to the table?

Here’s what Kiper had to say about the fit with the Giants, who he has taking Pitts at eleven overall.

At 6-foot-6, Pitts has the size/speed traits to line up out wide, in the slot or next to an offensive tackle. And he showed off his ability after the catch by averaging 17.9 yards per reception with 12 touchdowns. Pitts is not a traditional tight end, but he’s a skilled offensive threat. And with Evan Engram on the roster, too, the Giants would have two of the most athletic — and versatile — tight ends in football.

While it’s true the Giants would have multiple weapons at tight end if they kept Engram, it does seem like a strange pick. After all, there’s needs on the defense and even on offense, such as wide receiver. Having another tight end would help, but ultimately it’s hard to imagine the Giants would take a tight end over a possible number one receiver.

After all, even if Engram has too many drops, he fills the position with an above replacement level of play.

Still, the Giants not exactly needing another tight end hasn’t stopped Pitts from being mocked to them by multiple sources. And that likely won’t stop unless the Giants give some indication that they’re looking to another position – an unlikely pre-draft outcome.

New York Giants Draft Scenario at 11: Kyle Pitts or Jaylen Waddle?

New York Giants, Jaylen Waddle

As the off-season progresses toward the 2021 NFL draft, the New York Giants are in a position to land a premium offensive weapon to help quarterback Daniel Jones reach his potential. Over the past two seasons, the Giants have lacked talent on offense, especially with star running back Saquon Barkley playing injured in 2019 and missing a majority of the 2020 campaign. Jones was gifted with an inadequate pass-blocking offensive line and inconsistent receivers that failed to create separation and make splash plays.

However, ownership has committed to helping the offense this off-season, so we should expect the Giants to utilize the 11th overall pick and possibly some free agency money to increase their talent levels.

The draft offers a number of stellar prospects they can choose from, including quintessential pass-catching TE Kyle Pitts from Florida and even star Alabama receiver, Jaylen Waddle. The expectation is that both Ja’Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith will be off the board by the time the Giants pick at 11, but that doesn’t mean they can’t land a stellar playmaker at their spot.

In this scenario, the Giants have their choice of Pitts or Waddle, two players who immediately rejuvenate the offense with some playmaking ability. It is a difficult choice, so here’s a look at both players and what they bring to the table.

Who would help the New York Giants more?

Jaylen Waddle:

Waddle suffered an ankle injury in 2020, limiting him to just six games, where he posted 591 yards and four scores. In fact, he was expected to be the better prospect over Smith, who remained healthy and posted one of the best college seasons for a receiver in history.

Nonetheless, that doesn’t take away from Waddle and just how talented he is. His ability to play “X” receiver on the outside and line up in the slot makes him extremely dangerous. Designing plays for him should be a necessity for whichever team lands him in the draft. He has Tyreek Hill explosiveness, and while I’m not comparing him to the Chiefs’ star receiver, his elite speed and vision on the field make him a threat with the ball in his hands. Utilizing him on and-around runs and drag routes across the middle — simply getting the ball to Waddle is enough to spark a big play.

However, some might make the argument that the Giants need a big body receiver, and Waddle being 5-foot-10 might not fit the bill. I would counter, saying Waddle plays above his size and is capable of making contested catches in traffic.

The attention he draws from defenses makes him a stellar decoy, which would open up the running game for Saquon Barkley and provide Sterling Shepard with more man coverage matchups.

Waddle’s ability to run the entire route tree is what makes him such an attractive prospect. There is room to grow, as he needs a bit of polish on the intermediate routes, but he’s so elusive and dynamic, he can be an immediate impact player for the Giants.

Kyle Pitts:

While the Alabama receiver brings a lot to the table, a player like Kyle Pitts can’t be overlooked. Considering the Giants already have Evan Engram, it would be surprising if they allocated the 11th overall pick toward Pitts, but not if you really read between the lines.

Pitts is not just an ordinary TE, he is the perfect modern-day player at the position, with elite pass-catching ability and fantastic size. At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, Kyle has room to grow regarding mass.

What makes the Florida star such a fantastic talent is his ability to play in-line, slot receiver, and on the outside. Utilizing him in different alignments is exactly what an NFL team will look to do with Pitts, who has Plaxico Burress size and 50-50 catching abilities. Bringing back that big body red zone threat would be perfect for Jason Garrett and his offense, assuming that the Giants retain him as their coordinator. His ability to high-point balls in the air and run routes like a receiver are simply extravagant traits.

There are not many tight ends in the NFL they can line up as a wide receiver and dominate against corners in man coverage. Pitts can do it all, and that type of diversity is exactly what the Giants like with their change in mentality under head coach Joe Judge.

The one con regarding Pitts is his blocking abilities, which are underdeveloped. You can make the argument they hover in the average range, but if the Giants did draft him and retain Engram, utilizing them in 12-personnel sets would be devastating for opposing defenses.

Just imagine Pitts lined up in the “X” spot outside and Engram in-line — opposing defenses would have no idea what the Giants are doing with the football and that they have a 6-foot-5 monster TE who can run routes like some of the best receivers in the NFL.

Should the New York Giants consider trading Evan Engram?

New York Giants, Giants, Evan Engram

The New York Giants did not have many players selected to the Pro Bowl in 2020. One Giants player who was selected to the Pro Bowl, though, was a very controversial selection. The Giants’ offense was putrid this season, averaging only 17.5 points per game. But one player on their offense must have stood out to Pro Bowl voters.

New York Giants tight end Evan Engram was selected to his first career Pro Bowl in 2020 to the surprise of all Giants fans. Most fans felt Engram endured a down season this year, arguably the worst season of his career. Engram posted a career-low in touchdowns this season, reaching the end zone just twice. He also recorded a staggering 11 drops on the year, pulling frustration from Giants fans all season long.

Many fans thought Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan was far more deserving of a Pro Bowl selection after scoring 11 touchdowns, but he was snubbed in place of Evan Engram. Engram is still a young, talented player for the Giants. However, he is entering a contract year and has yet to meet the expectations set out for him after his incredible 2017 rookie season. Now, before New York has to pay Evan in 2022 potentially, the Giants need to decide whether or not they want Evan Engram to be a part of the team’s long-term future.

Should the Giants trade Evan Engram?

Despite his frustrating, drop-filled season, Evan Engram was arguably the most explosive and talented playmaker on the Giants’ offense last season, with Saquon Barkley on injured reserve. Engram still managed to rack up 654 receiving yards in 2020, despite leaving plenty of yards dropped onto the field.

Evan Engram is a talented player who cannot seem to get out of his own way. Maybe a change of scenery is what is best for him. But should the Giants really consider trading their starting tight end?

Replacement on the roster?

The Giants would be thin at the tight end position if they traded Evan Engram. Behind Evan is Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo. Kaden Smith is a young tight end with decent run-blocking capabilities but is not likely to emerge as a starting-level receiving talent. Toilolo is a pure run-blocker from the tight end position and is in danger of being a cap casualty this offseason.

Drafting a tight end

The Giants do have options to replace Evan Engram if they decide to trade him. One popular name connected to the Giants this offseason if draft prospect Kyle Pitts from the University of Florida. Pitts is a phenomenal tight end prospect that will likely be drafted in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Kyle Pitts totaled 43 receptions for 770 yards and an insane 12 touchdowns in only 8 games in 2020.

The Giants might not want to spend their coveted eleventh overall draft pick on a tight end, though, with much more pressing needs on their roster. New York is in need of a wide receiver and could target one with that pick or use the pick to improve their defense. But maybe the Giants could trade Evan Engram for a high-to-mid-round draft pick and replace him in free agency.

Finding a tight end in free agency

There are a few veteran options that the Giants could consider at tight end in free agency. In his twelfth career season, Jared Cook managed to rack up 504 yards and 7 touchdowns on 37 receptions in 2020. Cook has been one of the NFL’s best tight ends over his entire career and went to back to back Pro Bowls in 2018 and 2019. Despite thirty-three years old, Jared Cook is still playing some of his best football and could provide plenty of value to the Giants on a one-year deal.

Gerald Everett is a bit of a younger and likely pricier option for the Giants in free agency. The twenty-seven-year-old tight end has been with the Los Angeles Rams since his career began in 2017. Everett has been playing a complementary role, playing alongside Tyler Higbee with the Rams. The Rams run a lot of twelve-personnel, though, and Everett has made the most of his snaps. In 2020, Gerald posted a career-high 417 yards on 41 receptions. One red flag on Everett, though, is his six drops this past season. This could have been an anomaly, though, as he posted zero drops in both 2018 and 2019. Maybe a change of scenery could propel Everett into a legitimate starter.

One last high-end, long-shot option the Giants could take a look at in free agency is Hunter Henry. Henry is a twenty-seven-year-old tight end that has dealt with extensive injuries throughout his career. But when Henry is healthy, he performs as one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Henry has played 26 games in the past two seasons. Through those 26 games, Hunter has racked up 9 touchdowns and 1,265 receiving yards.

Hunter Henry is likely to be retained by the Los Angeles Chargers as they try to build around quarterback Justin Herbert. However, if he does hit the open market, Henry will be a highly-coveted free agent and could be a perfect fit for the Giants if they move on from Evan Engram.

New York Giants: Mock drafts split between defense and offensive needs

New York Giants, Kyle Pitts

No one really knows who the New York Giants are going to draft. Last year, everyone more or less could guess the team was going to take a tackle. Not everyone predicted that to be Andrew Thomas, but tackle was one of the most pressing needs for the team and they addressed it through the draft. When Daniel Jones was drafted, it was foreshadowed by a flurry of pre-draft hype that raised his stock and made the pick look more likely.

We haven’t reached that kind of consensus yet for the 2021 draft. From Kyle Pitts to Gregory Rousseau to Devonta Smith, many names have been mocked to the Giants so far. And it’s not quite clear where the most pressing need is.

So far, the experts are split when it comes to their predictions.

Todd McShay, for one, believes the Giants will go defense and target pass rusher Rousseau. If the team loses Leonard Williams, that could be an important pick.

Rousseau opted out this season, but he had 15.5 sacks for the Hurricanes in 2019 and has speed and power coming around the corner. Alternatively, offensive line, wide receiver or cornerback could be areas to keep an eye on for New York.

Many believe the Giants will lose either Leonard Williams or Dalvin Tomlinson. If they do lose Williams, they’ll miss out on bringing back their sacks leader. In that case, bringing in a player that has been dominant in the ACC would be a good addition. However, there may be some concerns as Rousseau opted out of last season and it’s unknown if his previous level of play will be maintained heading into the NFL.

On the other hand, Dane Brugler of the Athletic believes the Giants will go offense and draft Kyle Pitts.

Pitts can play tight end or wide receiver and create mismatches with his size, athleticism and ball skills.

The assessment will obviously remind Giants fans of Evan Engram. Engram entered the league with similar hype around his skills at playing both positions. However, injuries and dropped passes have cost him a good reputation with many fans.

The selection of Pitts might seem redundant, unless, of course, the Giants are finally done with Engram. That may be the case, but there’s reason to have skepticism. The franchise has been plenty committed to Engram over the past years, after all.

Which direction the Giants are actually going to go in won’t be cleared up until closer to the draft. As of right now, there’s still multiple directions they could go – and there’s no consensus on the likely pick from analysts.