While the 2016 NFL Draft begins to take shape, two things are becoming clear. First of all, this draft is full of day-one starter defensive talent. Players like Myles Garrett, Malik Hooker, and Jamal Adams highlight the prospects there. In addition, this draft’s tight end class is one of the best that scouts have seen in years. The draft stocks of O.J. Howard and David Njoku continue to rise, but what about the others? More specifically, what if the Cleveland Browns wanted a tight end outside of the first round? Well, they should look no further than the top athlete out of Ole Miss, Evan Engram.
Why the Cleveland Browns Should Draft Evan Engram
During the 2015 NFL season, Browns tight end Gary Barnidge became a household name. Barnidge had a career year and racked up 1,043 yards to go along with nine touchdowns. But in 2016, the season following his breakout campaign, something odd happened. Gary Barnidge practically disappeared.
Throughout the 2016 season, Browns fans looked for Barnidge to go back to his old self and start making spectacular plays again. But “Big Play Gary” never came back. Instead, fans were just left with plain old “Gary,” who collected a sorry two touchdowns on the year. Of course, fans were both disappointed and confused. But here, Dawg Pound faithful, is where Evan Engram comes in.
Engram could essentially be a replacement for Gary Barnidge, and hopefully a more consistent one. In his final season at Ole Miss, Engram racked up 926 yards and eight touchdowns. Engram is also much younger than Barnidge, so “Big Play Gary” might be on his way out anyways.
An Easy Target
As far as quarterbacks go, the Browns have not been great since 1999. And that is a generous term. But Evan Engram is a big, big man running down that football field. At 6’3, 234 pounds, and with a solid vertical leap, Engram is a great target for an inaccurate quarterback. Fortunately for the Browns, that is an area in which they excel. His catch radius is fantastic and he knows exactly how to use his body.
With Engram in the tight end spot, players like Cody Kessler are bound to succeed. While Kessler was strikingly accurate in college, most of his throws were short to medium-length passes. Kessler is an intelligent quarterback, but he needs the right weapons to succeed. In this draft, Engram could definitely be one of those weapons. He is versatile, athletic, and can make catches that will wow the fans. If the Browns want to get Kessler a “go up and get it” style of target, Engram should be their guy.
The annual NFL Combine has become a spectacle on the level of the NFL Draft. As players perform their workouts, scouts everywhere look for potential at the pro level. While some players fall flat under the immense pressure, others excel throughout the Combine. Evan Engram goes into the latter group.
First of all, Engram benched 19 reps of 225 pounds, putting him seventh among tight ends. Okay, so that is impressive, but is Engram’s strength his only attribute? No. After he was done putting on a show at the bench press, Engram moved on to the vertical jump. There, he posted a 36-inch leap. Alright, so he’s strong and he can jump high. Anything else? Well yes, actually.
Finally, and most impressively, Engram ran a 4.42 40-yard dash. To put that in perspective, the average tight end runs a 4.77, or somewhere in that area. Engram is essentially three-tenths of a second faster than the average tight end. This combination of strength, size, and speed gives him an incredible edge in coverage. Evan Engram is too tall and strong for cornerbacks to tackle, and too fast for linebackers to take down. At the NFL level, it might take two or three tackles to bring him down. In any case, if a quarterback can find Engram in the open field, defenses can forget about tackling.
Conclusion and Pro Comparison
There is no doubt that Evan Engram is an incredible tight end talent in this year’s draft. From his size to his speed, Engram has everything that an NFL should look for. His 40-yard dash shows that he is explosive off the line of scrimmage, while his bench press showed that he can shed off defenders. Engram could be a great replacement for an aging Gary Barnidge, and has all the tools to be a top-flight tight end. The common (and seemingly most accurate) comparison for Engram is Washington’s Jordan Reed. Drafting Engram will pay dividends for the Browns for years to come. If Cody Kessler could find Engram down the field regularly, that could become a downright horrifying connection in Cleveland.