The Patriots could be in a situation where the top two TEs in the draft (OJ Howard and David Njoku) are both off the board before the Patriots pick at 32. After those two, the TE class drops a bit with Jake Butt tearing his ACL in his final college game and then Evan Engram, who is more of a match-up weapon that actual TE. Since Engram is more of a WR than a TE despite the position listing, his value is very limited for some offenses and can be a match-up nightmare in elite offenses. In the Patriots case, the value is more of the latter.
Engram is only 230 pounds on a good day, so he needs to add more muscle to his frame to withstand the rigors of playing in the NFL. Engram was a decent target, but his production exploded his Senior Year to the tune of 65 catches for 926 yards and 8 TD. Engram posted 100 yard games against Florida State, Alabama, and Arkansas, so he played some of his best games against tough competition. When you go from a borderline NFL talent in Chad Kelly to the greatest QB to play the game, Engram should put up more consistent numbers.
vs. Florida State 2016
Engram has his moments in the game, and had some ugly plays. Engram lined up more as a wing and slot receiver, so I wouldn’t expect him to do a lot of that in the NFL. Chad Kelly went to him a lot, throwing the ball to him 12 times. His best catches came on seam routes, the first splitting a linebacker and safety in a Cover 2 Zone, the second beating single coverage. His hands were somewhat inconsistent, as he dropped two passes, one resulting in a momentum-flipping interception. Had a couple nice blocks to spring a couple decent runs, but blocking is not his forte.
vs. Georgia 2016
Engram shows more in the passing game against Georgia, who was shellacked in that game. Engram has a couple nice grabs downfield and beat single coverage on an out route. On his TD, he does a good job of lulling the defender to sleep and then sharply cuts towards the back corner of the end zone. While the ball wasn’t thrown well, Engram does a good job of high-pointing the ball. Engram lined up in the slot, on the wing, and in the backfield. Everywhere except as an inline TE.
vs. Auburn 2016
In this clip, we see more blocking from Engram, both pass and run blocking. While he’s not as good as Rob Gronkowski or Martellus Bennett in that regard, there is something the Patriots can work with. Engram puts in a solid 95 yard game, although he did have a costly drop late in the game. Engram did a lot of his damage between the numbers and off play action. Most of the time, Engram played away from the formation, but there were a couple inline snaps in there.
Patriots Fit: The Patriots are very good at using formations, motions, and pre-snap reads to create match-ups favorable to the offense. Engram isn’t an inline blocker, so he’ll be playing more away from the formation than in the strength of it. I think it’s safe to assume he’s not going to be used a lot as a point of attack blocker. With the amount of attention Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman gets, opposing defenses aren’t going to put a lot of resources on Engram, which means LB coverage. Engram is a mismatch against LB with speed and is good at boxing out defensive backs for the ball. There are maybe five offenses that can get Engram to play at his full potential and the Patriots are one of them.
Pro Comp: Delanie Walker/Jordan Reed? I can’t think of a good pro comp as a prospect for Engram because most NFL TEs are around 6’5” 250 whereas Engram is more in the 6’3” 230 range. The only Patriots TE who played at that size was Tim Wright in 2014, although Engram is a superior player to Wright. His skill set compares a lot to Jordan Reed as a receiver, but Engram’s ability to block isn’t as good as it needs to be. Even if Engram is no better than a large slot receiver, that in itself creates a match-up problem because most nickel corners can’t match size and quickness. I have Engram graded as a mid 2nd round pick, but I think there’s better than a 60% chance the Patriots have a shot at him at 64th overall.
I was initially inclined to give him a Jordan Reed comp, but I think that’s a small stretch. Charles Clay is another TE that is similar in stature, but Clay is a better blocker than Engram.