The New York Giants seem to waver back and forth on whether tight end Evan Engram will be a part of their future, despite his potential and relative youth. Engram burst onto the scene in his rookie year in 2017, leading fans and the team to believe that he might be a career Giant. He put up 722 yards and 6 touchdowns in his first NFL season, and it seemed like the best was yet to come for him.
But since that time, Engram’s health and production has taken a dip. In 2018 and 2019, he only played in 19 out of a possible 32 games. In 2020, Engram’s health was much improved, but posted a career low in touchdowns and yards per catch.
The Giants signed tight end Kyle Rudolph to a two-year contract a couple of weeks ago as insurance for Engram, who will be playing out the final year of his contract in 2021. The team might once again float his name out in trade talks if they don’t want to pay him past this season.
Who might New York target at the tight end position if Engram is not the answer moving forward?
It’s not even that Kyle Pitts is projected to be the best tight end in this draft—he’s projected to be the best tight end in this draft by a mile. There are a few mock drafts out there that have Pitts as the only tight end selected in the first round.
The dearth of talent at the position might cause Pitts to get selected before the Giants pick at 11, but it’s very conceivable that he could still be there given the high-end talent at quarterback and receiver. The former University of Florida star certainly looks the part of a star at the next level though. He’s got the size (6’6”, 246 pounds) to contend with oncoming linemen and linebackers, and also has the athleticism to make plays in the passing game down the field. Last season with the Gators, Pitts scored 12 receiving touchdowns and posted 17.9 yards per catch. If the Giants can somehow land him, their offense could be in for a sizable improvement in 2021.
Even though there is a dropoff, the Giants could still address the tight end position later in the draft with their second-round pick, number 42 overall. Pat Freiermuth out of Penn State University figures to be where the second tier begins, but has the tools to be a solid NFL player. He’s probably not a starting tight end right away, but brings tools to the table that could allow him to play in the league for a decade.
Freiermuth had impressive receiving numbers at Penn State in his first two seasons, serving as a reliable red zone threat for the Nittany Lions. However, his 2020 season ended prematurely due to shoulder surgery. As long as he’s able to recover fully from that procedure, Freiermuth should contribute in his rookie season as a blocker at least, while he learns the rest of the NFL game.
Cut from the same cloth as Freiermuth is Boston College tight end Hunter Long. He spent three seasons playing for the BC Eagles, scoring a career high 5 touchdowns last season. He isn’t going to wow anyone with his agility or separation ability, but Long is a reliable pass catcher when open, and can help move the chains on 3rd down.
Long was a capable and willing blocker in college, who actively looked to engage with linebackers to give his running backs the edge. With some development and coaching at the next level, Long should be able to finish blocks better than he did in college, which would be good news for Saquon Barkley and the other Giants running backs.