Over the next few months, we’ll be looking at prospects in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft from a decidedly Cowboys point of view. Taking the Cowboys current personnel, draft position, scheme, and needs into consideration; defensive line, linebacker, defensive backs, as well as complementary offensive pieces at wide receiver, tight end, and perhaps right tackle, we hope to profile the majority of the potential prospects that could realistically end up as Cowboys within the first two rounds. Once the “official visits” start to leak we’ll add prospects that are possibilities in the later rounds.
#17 - Evan Engram - Tight End - Mississippi - 6-3, 234
Games Watched: Florida St., Georgia, Auburn, Texas A&M
Pros: Without a doubt the top receiver out of this year’s tight end class, an absolute nightmare downfield/down the seam threat. Very smooth route runner, gets in and out of his breaks well for his size, also has an excellent feel for finding open spaces and making himself available in zone coverage. Has the athleticism and body control of a receiver, which allows him to win in jump ball situations. Tough enough to take contact over the middle and still secure the catch. Does a nice job of using his hands to pluck the ball out of the air, but he did have some noticeable drops, perhaps due to lapses in concentration. Impressive change of direction and run after the catch ability for his size. A better blocker than he is given credit for, he needs refinement in that area for sure but from what I saw he gives effort and looks to be a willing blocker despite being undersized. There were several instances that I saw where he was asked to block defensive ends and linebackers, so he is not completely inexperienced in that regard. Measured in at 236 at the Senior Bowl and still looked very fluid, also tested extremely well at the Combine at 234, which eases any concerns that he played in college at about 225 and may not be able to maintain his athleticism if asked to play at 235-240. Good agility and light on his feet. Ran a diverse route tree in college, similar to what you would expect out of a receiver. Primarily lined up in the slot, although at times he did line up in the backfield or standing up at the end of the offensive line, he just rarely if ever had his hand down in a three-point stance.
Cons: The biggest concern with Engram that everybody seems to have is his blocking, and while I think he is better than most give him credit for, he clearly needs to become more physical and refined in that regard as he doesn’t consistently hold his blocks. Functioned primarily as a “jumbo” slot receiver and almost never lined up as a traditional in-line tight end. From the games that I saw I thought he was more “smooth” than explosive, although the 4.42 40 and 36 inch vertical that he posted at the Combine suggests otherwise. Could stand to become more sudden and crisp in and out of breaks, he has good change of direction for his size and is smooth as a route-runner but he could stand to show more urgency as he has a tendency to round off routes at times. Lacks ideal height and bulk for the prototype traditional tight end, although given how the league is going 6-3 and about 235-240 is plenty big enough to function in today’s NFL.
Conclusion: There is no denying Engram’s talent as a receiver, although reading into the tendencies of the Cowboys front office and coaching staff I think they will shy away from him due to his lack of experience as a traditional in-line tight end. Personally, the aggression and willingness that he showed as a blocker, even if he is raw in that regard, would be enough for me to take a chance on him given his absolutely elite talent as a pass-catcher.
Most would assume that wide receiver is the place to look to add some much needed downfield speed in order to keep defenses from selling out against the run, but I think Engram could be an interesting solution with his ability to stretch the field down the seam. Most linebackers and safeties won’t be able to cover him, so teams will have to bring in an extra cornerback, which also helps the running game as it takes size off the field. Of course the other thing to consider is that he would have a year or two to improve as a blocker learning from Jason Witten.
Prior to the Combine Engram was one of my favorite potential picks at 60, but given his extremely impressive performance I believe that is a pipe dream at this point. Selecting him at 28 is a little too rich for my blood, although if the defensive options are slim I think it would be an innovative, forward thinking type of pick, assuming the coaching staff is willing to use him creatively and wouldn’t just try to turn him into a pure in-line player. He would be at the top of my wish list if the team were to trade back into the first 10-15 picks of the second round.
I do not have access to coach’s film or anything of that nature, I just watch plenty of football (television broadcast version) and go off what I see out of a prospect. I started this odd fascination of mine in 2011 when I sent my breakdown and links to videos of Tyron Smith at USC to the excellent Cowboys blogger Bob Sturm (April 28, 2011 - Even More Tyron Smith Tape). Since then I’ve continued watching prospects closely, but I’ve never taken the initiative to actually formally write my thoughts until I became a writer for BTB. I hope that I can provide an interesting, and accurate perspective on prospects from a Cowboys-centric point of view.
Special thanks to DraftBreakdown for posting the videos that help provide a more in-depth look at this year’s prospects.