Ever since the entirety of the New York Giants’ wide receiver corps hit injured reserve, one thing became clear. This team’s offense would have to flow through rookie tight end Evan Engram.
After his first month in the NFL, that didn’t seem like the best idea. He had a nice start to his career, but nothing that indicated he would be capable of carrying an attack. He was often Eli Manning’s third or fourth option on plays. And though he was a key cog, Engram only found the end zone once through five weeks.
Things changed in Week 6. Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, and Dwayne Harris were all out injured, leaving the passing game in the hands of Engram and the practice squad. In the two games since Engram became a focal point, the young TE has 19 targets, 11 catches, 142 yards, and two touchdowns. This isn’t Rob Gronkowski territory, but Engram has pushed his way into the upper echelon of NFL tight ends in a short amount of time.
Again, this move wasn’t necessarily because of some major change by Engram. Instead, his role changed because of the crumbling of the offense around him. Yet those circumstances don’t affect his output, especially from a fantasy football perspective. The Giants may keep losing, but if he keeps producing, fantasy owners won’t care.
Considering the mediocre start to his career, it may be surprising to know that Engram is already technically a top five tight end in standard fantasy leagues. Through seven weeks, he is fifth in points with 82.2. Engram trails only Zach Ertz (Zach Ertz!), Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, and Cameron Brate. He is ahead of such stalwarts as Jordan Reed, Jimmy Graham, and Delanie Walker. He is also ahead of his rookie TE peers from the ’17 draft. Engram is performing well.
This positioning will fall as the Giants enter their bye week. Engram will likely be passed by at least one player before New York takes the field again. But that ignores the point. Is Engram on this level going forward? Is he a top-tier fantasy tight end in the NY offense? Shepard is due to return to the lineup for Week 9. Will that hamper Engram’s production?
Considering the slow start a number of top tight ends have had, remaining in the top five all year will be a tall task. Engram could continue to perform well and still end up behind the likes of Reed and Graham. Both are coming on.
The real key for a tight end to continue producing when split out wide is red zone targets. How often does the quarterback look his way in the most important area of the field? Through seven weeks, Graham and Gronk lead the way at the position. Engram is way down the list, having only garnered four red zone targets all season. Of course, the news isn’t all bad. He has caught all four of those targets, scoring three times in the process.
This ends up being both positive and negative news for Engram’s cause. He does well with his opportunities; he just doesn’t get many, likely thanks to the ineptitude of the Giants offense as a whole. Fortunately, Engram is tied for second in the NFL in tight end targets overall. Only Ertz has seen more chances.
The fantasy future for Engram is surprisingly solid because of all this. No matter how bad the NY offense remains, he should remain either the first or second option of Manning all season. He will get less red zone looks than his peers, but those chances will be used wisely. It is often hard to trust rookie receivers in fantasy football, but we have enough evidence that Engram should be a reliable weapon the rest of the way. Top five at his position? Maybe not technically, but the motivation behind the ranking will be true.