Evan Engram's 2020 Fantasy Outlook
Evan Engram has been an exciting prospect ever since the New York Giants took him in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, and for more reasons than simple draft capital. Engram’s athletic profile is a sight to behold, and his statistical profile coming out of college was a rarity for a position that doesn’t get much run in the NCAA.
Couple his talent with an NFL team that hasn’t had an explosive pass catcher since they traded away Odell Beckham, and we should have the makings for fantasy gold. Yet, after three years in the league, we have only seen one top-12 TE finish. So, what gives?
A History of Injuries
Evan Engram’s short career has been forced even shorter due to a litany of injuries, starting way back when he missed a week of his impressive rookie season with a rib contusion. That was a freak injury and something we shouldn’t put any stock into, but the following two seasons he missed 13 games with a scroll of lower-body injuries; ankle, knee and hamstring strains in 2018, followed by an MCL sprain in 2019 and finally a mid-foot sprain requiring Lisfranc surgery that landed him on the IR.
Recurring lower-body injuries affect certain positions more than others I’m sure, but who on a football field doesn’t need drive and explosiveness at the snap and the point of attack? Lingering leg issues can decimate a career but when Engram is healthy he still produces, as evidenced by his 9.3 half-PPR fantasy points per game in 2018 (seventh) and 10.9 half-PPR fantasy points per game in 2019 (seventh).
#NYG TE coach Freddie Kitchens (gotta get used to that): Evan Engram did “helluva job” rehabbing this summer. Now emphasis is “stay in the moment, keep head down & work.” Also on releases & hand placement.
As we know, EE has always had a ton of potential. Health is key. #Zoom
— Kim Jones (@KimJonesSports) August 13, 2020
Usage and Efficiency When Healthy
Engram’s usage has been curious up to this point in his career, from being used as an inline tight end for a vast majority of his snaps in 2017, to being used out of the slot on more than a third of his snaps in 2018, and then a blend of those extremes last season.
|Season||Yards per Target (Rank)||TAY||Snap % Wide||Snap % Slot|
|2017||6.28 (26th/32)||8.6 (13th/31)||8.8%||17.0%|
|2018||9.02 (5th/28)||5.1 (28th/28)||11.8%||35.0%|
|2019||6.77 (25th/37)||6 (24th/32)||8.7%||27.1%|
When lined up from the slot at 35% in ‘18, Engram was able to rack up 9.02 yards per target, far and away the best mark in his three-year career and good for the fifth-highest mark amongst the league’s tight ends. That high YPT had a negative correlation with his 5.1 Average Targeted Air Yards (TAY) (https://nextgenstats.nfl.com/stats/receiving/2018/all), showing that the Giants were finding him soft pockets of the defense, close to the line of scrimmage while he worked out of the slot, allowing him to use his remarkable athleticism to move the ball upfield.
— Justin Edwards (@Justin_Redwards) August 19, 2020
This isn’t to say that the Giants can’t use their tight end as a weapon when lining up as an inline TE, only that he has found the most success when frequenting the slot.
Engram has proved that —when he's on the field— he can score from anywhere.
This is the first play in the second half of Week 3, '19. Daniel Jones hits him in stride and lets him do the rest pic.twitter.com/Y9n8DmBr5z
— Justin Edwards (@Justin_Redwards) August 19, 2020
Offensive Fit and 2020 Projection
It is telling that through three coaching changes (and now the fourth with the hiring of Joe Judge), Evan Engram has always remained an integral part of the Giants offense, no matter who is calling the plays. Things shouldn’t change much this season, and if new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett liked to force the ball into tip-toeing Jason Witten, he’s going to love Engram’s game-breaking speed.
Let’s say for argument’s sake that Engram plays his first 16-game season in his career, Garrett loves him and the chemistry between him and Daniel Jones continues to strengthen. This is all very much in play (at least the latter two), but let us not forget that the team still has Saquon Barkley, Darius Slayton, Golden Tate, and Sterling Shepard to feed. What’s more, Tate and Shepard’s most efficient place on the field is out of the slot; an area of the field that we’ve already mentioned has provided Engram with a load of production. It would be fantastic if the Giants just simply ran four-wide sets to get the three receivers and Engram on the field and out-wide at the same time, but if the 2019 Dallas team is any indication, that is not very likely; Garrett’s Cowboys ran plays out of 1-0 personnel on only three plays all season. The rest of the league ran 1-0 personnel 912 times. (Numbers courtesy of Sports Info Solutions)
Because of numerous mouths to feed and fears associated with repeated lower-body injuries, our projections have Engram at a 65-655-4 stat line ahead of the season, which ranks him as a low-end TE1. When comparing that to his current sixth-round average draft position as the sixth tight end off the board, it makes it difficult to justify having him on your team.
- When healthy, the Giants have a deep three-WR set which forces Evan Engram to line up as the inline TE. Garrett’s 2019 Cowboys had a similar wide receiver depth chart and that team lined up with a fourth player out wide on three of 1,065 offensive snaps.
- With the wide gap between the most likely statistical outcome and where he is currently going in drafts, you have to pass on Engram and his 6.05 ADP. It’s better to wait a round or two for the likes of Tyler Higbee or Jared Cook or take a late-round approach to try to land someone that can out-pace their ADP by multiple rounds.
- Engram will have “ceiling” weeks best suited for playing positive matchups in DFS.