Eight months after the Giants drafted him in the first round in 2017, Evan Engram was a top-three dynasty TE and a cornerstone asset for a rebuilding franchise coming off its worst season since 1974. Four relatively disappointing years later, Engram’s career stands at a crossroads. Now that the Jaguars reportedly have signed him to a one-year, $9 million deal (guaranteed, with another $1 million in incentives), what is Engram’s dynasty fantasy football outlook ahead of 2022, and what impact will this move have on his former and new teams?
Evan Engram’s dynasty fantasy outlook
It’s easy to forget Engram’s fantasy greatness, and as a result, it’s easy to ignore what led to his fall. Still only 27 years old, the former budding star has settled into a hit-or-miss role. Marred frequently by injuries, inconsistent usage, and subpar hands, Engram has undoubtedly struggled.
The Giants selected him five years ago to replace the tandem of Will Tye and Larry Donnell, both former undrafted free agents. Tye and Donnell had peaked in their respective first full NFL seasons. After far exceeding expectations in 2016 with an 11-5 record, the Giants had a window to give the 35-year-old Eli Manning and this franchise yet another Super Bowl.
Paired with dominant 25-year-old Odell Beckham Jr. and up-and-coming second-year pro in Sterling Shepard, Engram would help take the offense to the next level.
Instead, injuries to OBJ and Shepard elevated Engram to the No. 1 receiver role, as Manning’s next-best options included Roger Lewis, Tavarres King, and Rhett Ellison. The results were disastrous, as expected.
How good is Engram?
This setup is critically important to understanding Engram’s future fantasy value. His career-highs as a rookie were based almost entirely on serious injuries to the team’s top two receivers. The fantasy universe believed 2017 was his baseline. He had a top-seven TE ADP in 2018, 2019, and 2020 despite never again posting overall top-12 TE production. So what can we realistically expect from Engram? How good is he?
To be a TE1 once again, Engram needs to be a fairly consistent top-four offensive option in an above-average offense. Even as the Giants crumbled in 2021, Engram averaged just under 3.1 catches on 4.9 targets per game. For context, the Bears’ Cole Kmet averaged 3.5 and 5.5, respectively. Kmet was the TE20. Engram needs top-10 volume to be a top-12 TE.
He also needs better hands, which is easier said than done. Twice he’s led the league in dropped passes among tight ends, contributing to a painfully low 61% catch rate. Only three times in the last four years has a top-12 fantasy TE had a lower catch rate.
Investing in Engram means believing in the promise he showed at Ole Miss, particularly in his senior season, when he led all teammates in receptions and yards while playing alongside freshmen A.J. Brown and Van Jefferson. The fact is, Engram has big-game ability. We’ve seen it. But he has to earn enough trust to merit a high-profile offensive role, and that trust requires reeling in more catchable balls.
Fantasy impact on the Jaguars
The one-year deal costs Jacksonville almost nothing as a franchise, though it delays their rebuild on the assumption Engram is not “the answer.” And it will be hard for Engram to establish fantasy value — and by extension, secure a more lucrative deal after 2022 — playing alongside Dan Arnold in a muddled passing game.
At his best, Trevor Lawrence will be a terrific NFL quarterback. I expect a nice leap from him in Year 2. However, expecting him to feed Engram, Arnold, the newly signed Christian Kirk, Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault, and other tertiary options would be a longshot. Every receiver takes a fantasy hit with Engram’s signing, as it removes about 50-75 targets from the table.
Fantasy impact on the Giants
Engram’s departure further consolidates an offense that was long on contributors and short on durability in 2021. Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney should be the biggest winners as the most talented remaining receivers signed long-term contracts. Both retain surprisingly good dynasty value, especially looking ahead to 2023 when Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton will be free agents.
Daniel Jones takes a hit with the loss of one of his top weapons. However, his issues go beyond whether he has a talented hit-or-miss tight end. If Jones can’t get Golladay and Toney going, then he won’t have a starting job for very long. But a sizable hole at tight end won’t make matters any better. I would expect New York to look for their tight end of the future in this year’s draft.
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