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Fact or Fiction: First predictions for Evan Engram


The staff debates Big Blue topics as rookie report for minicamp:

Evan Engram will rank third on the team in receiving yards this season. **

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JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - This is a tough statement. Engram finishing third is certainly possible, but I'm still going to go with fiction here. I think when all is said and done he will finish behind all of the top three wide receivers in receiving yards because he will play the fewest snaps of the four. There are other tight ends on the roster that are going to get snaps, too. He's also a rookie and it might take some time for him to get acclimated to the pro game, despite his advanced receiver skills. Engram's total numbers are far less important than the total effect he will have on the offense, and how defenses align to stop it. His mere presence will help things.


DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - Let's pump the brakes a little here and let him practice, which he will do for the first time as a professional athlete on Friday. Between him and Brandon Marshall, there should be plenty of yards to go around for the new additions to the offense – that's the plan, at least. But it's going to be tough for Engram to overtake either Marshall, Odell Beckham Jr. or Sterling Shepard, who is concentrating on improving his yards after catch this season.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - It's not rare for a Giants tight end to finish third on the team in receiving yards.  That happened in 2014 when Larry Donnell collected 623 yards in Ben McAdoo's first season as offensive coordinator.  Two years prior, Martellus Bennett also accomplished that feat with 626 yards.  It's important to note that in 2014 Victor Cruz suffered a season-ending injury in Week 6, so Donnell essentially became the third wideout, and in 2012 with Domenik Hixon working his way back from a torn ACL and Rueben Randle, a rookie like Donnell, Bennett was also considered the third receiver.  That won't be the case with Evan Engram as he'll be competing for targets with a trio of talented receivers in Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard, who finished second on the team in receiving yards in 2016.  Engram certainly has the talent to finish third in receiving yards, and I wouldn't be surprised if that happened, but I think the top three receivers will all finish ahead of him in that category.

The rookie you're most interested to see in OTAs with the veterans is Davis Webb. **

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - The only other person I would even consider for this answer is Evan Engram, but since we won't be able to see his physicality in OTA's due to player contact restrictions, I'll go with the quarterback. We'll see how he is learning the offense, and all the great physical tools he showed at Texas Tech and California. His accuracy is what I'll be watching most closely. OTA's pose no restrictions for quarterbacks. It should be fun.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - It's Engram. Not only is he the headliner of this year's rookie class, he's also at a position where you actually see some action in non-contact OTAs. You don't get to see much from the run game in spring, but you get plenty of aerial highlights. I'm interested to see all the combinations the coaches have been dreaming up for the last few months with Beckham, Shepard, Marshall, Rhett Ellison and now Engram.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - The rookie I'm most interested to see in OTAs is a player who I think has a very good chance of claiming a starting job: second round pick Dalvin Tomlinson.  The Alabama defensive tackle will be competing with Jay Bromley and Robert Thomas to line up next to Damon Harrison.  How Tomlinson meshes with a veteran defensive line will be worth watching, as will first round pick Evan Engram's involvement in the offense.  Davis Webb's throws will likely be put under a microscope during OTAs, given the media attention, but with no competition in play for a starting job, all eyes should be on Tomlinson or Engram.
The most physically talented rookie you've seen since covering the team was Odell Beckham Jr.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - Odell Beckham's side to side quickness, burst and start and stop ability is off the charts. He is the most physically gifted player I've seen since covering the Giants. There's one problem: when he was a rookie he was battling a hamstring injury and was rarely on the field during offseason workouts. Since I didn't get to see him in these situations as a rookie, I'm going to go with David Wilson. His explosive running style, acceleration and top end speed were truly special. He was just unable to transfer those physical skills into being an effective running back before his career was cut short by injury.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - David Wilson really brought the "wow" factor when he first hit the field in 2012. The way he could change directions so smoothly and then accelerate so quickly was truly world class. But he takes a backseat to Beckham, which is nothing to be ashamed about in the grand scheme of things. We didn't get the "wow" right away because of his early injuries, but what Beckham can do with the ball in his hands is unlike any other.

LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Odell Beckham put together one of the most impressive rookie seasons in NFL history and certainly the most impressive I've seen in person, so that statement alone solidifies my case.  However, with that being said, I think David Wilson (2012 first round pick) deserves to be included in this conversation.  Not only did he also put together an impressive rookie campaign, specifically on special teams, but I think his physical talents are probably overshadowed by his battles with the injury bug.
Solomon Thomas is the best opposing rookie on the schedule.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - The easy answer here is fact, right? Nah! Here's why: the 49ers are stacked with guys that play a similar position to Thomas, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. They play some traditional end in their traditional base, but both want to kick inside to rush the quarterback from the 3-technique in passing situations. That's where Thomas will be best as a pro. I'm not sure how the 49ers will figure that out. That leaves five possibilities: Derek Barnett on the Eagles, Jonathan Allen on the Redskins, O.J. Howard on the Bucs, Mike Williams on the Chargers and Hasson Reddick on the Cardinals. I like Allen better than Barnett and Reddick on defense, and Howard better than Williams on offense. In the end, I'll have to go with Jonathan Allen over O.J. Howard. He dropped because of long term concerns that his shoulders can't hold up, but that should not be a factor in his early years in the league. He was a top five talent in the draft and will show why with the Redskins this year. The Giants see him twice.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact - He is the highest draft pick the Giants face this year, so he has to be, right? Again, let's pump the brakes a little and let the process play out. With that said, what sets Thomas apart is his ability to play outside on the early downs and then rush the passer from the inside on the money downs. Those are the types of players who are truly disruptive and give offensive staffs headaches all week long leading up to the game. In this case, that will be Week 10 in mid-November.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - I think Solomon Thomas is a solid player, but given the Giants play the Eagles twice as opposed to the Niners just once, I'm going with another explosive defensive end taken in the first round: Derek Barnett. Philadelphia already had a strong defensive line with the likes of Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham and now they're adding Barnett, who became Tennessee's all-time leader in career sacks with 33, breaking the mark set by the late great Reggie White in 1983. Most of Barnett's sacks, especially in 2016, came against the elite talent in the SEC, and he's also very strong against the run. I think he's going to be a great fit in Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's scheme, which leans heavily on strong pass rushers without constantly blitzing. Redskins first round pick, defensive end Jonathan Allen out of Alabama, is right up there, as is his college teammate tight end O.J. Howard, who went to Tampa Bay with the 19th overall selection.

These opposing playmakers will appear on the Giants' schedule in 2017.

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