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Evan Engram has to prove he can block like a TE for Giants

The Ole Miss standout is an athletic receiver, but is he an NFL tight end?

Georgia Southern v Mississippi Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Evan Engram was one of the nation’s most productive tight ends in 2016, hauling in 65 passes for 926 yards in just 11 games at Ole Miss. While there’s no questioning his ability to make plays, one thing may keep him from being a dynamo in the NFL: his blocking.

The New York Giants gambled, nevertheless, selecting him with the No. 23 pick of the 2017 NFL draft. They’ll hope he can round out his game in order to have as big an impact on the ground as he does through the air.

Engram led the Rebels in receiving yards and touchdowns (eight) last fall, filling the void vacated by Laquon Treadwell while giving quarterback Chad Kelly a mismatch over the middle. The All-American proved he can shoulder the load of an SEC passing offense, but he’s still got several questions to answer as he preps for his rookie season.

What does Evan Engram bring to the Giants?

Engram is a big-play receiver who happens to have the size to play tight end. His athleticism will make it difficult for even the league’s fastest linebackers to cover him, and NFL teams have begun to focus on creating those mismatches more and more since players like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham started roasting secondaries this decade.

He’s got legit wideout speed (a 4.42 40 at the combine) with a 234-pound frame, which makes him hard to cover and even more difficult to bring down in the open field.

He jumps well and has high-level lateral agility, which means he can explode out of routes and attack the ball at angles most defensive backs can’t reach. As a tight end, he’ll be both a red zone and deep threat — and that’s the kind of player opposing defenses have to specifically game plan for each week. He’s flashed good hands as well, though lapses have led to drops in the past.

What are his weaknesses?

At 234 pounds, he’s undersized for a tight end. That certainly doesn’t help with his blocking, which regressed last fall as he stepped into a larger role as a pass catcher with the Rebels. He struggles to clear paths in the run game, and his inability to throw effective cut blocks can lead his tailbacks into big trouble at the line of scrimmage.

He’s also subpar in pass protection, where he struggles to engage pass rushers without getting beat. He’s not an instinctual receiver, which can leave scrambling quarterbacks out to dry. He doesn’t always come back to the ball when his offense needs to be bailed out, and he’s not smooth when it comes to adjusting to the ball in the air. A good quarterback can overcome that, but Eli Manning’s erratic accuracy could make this an issue.

Where does he fit with the Giants?

He’ll bring his playmaking abilities to an offense that hasn’t had a legitimate tight end in years. Despite Engram’s blocking deficiencies, he’s a massive upgrade over the likes of Larry Donnell and Will Tye, giving Eli Manning a solid weapon to work with in the passing game.