Ole Miss had three underclassmen leave school early last season, and all three (offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, defensive tackleRobert Nkemdiche) were drafted in the first round. Evan Engram was looking to make the NFL jump as well, but after receiving a “go back to school” grade from the NFL Advisory Committee, he made the tough (and wise) decision to return for his senior season.
No tight end in Ole Miss history has more career catches or receiving yards, but Engram’s production dipped in 2015 as he struggled to find the right chemistry with quarterback Chad Kelly. However, the tight end returned to Oxford for his senior year to rectify that issue and boost his profile for the NFL.
Engram is an above-average athlete for his size, with sudden release off the line of scrimmage to quickly enter his route and sit down in soft spots underneath. His agile feet and fluid change-of-direction skills allow him to make smooth adjustments, twist his body and pluck the ball.
Engram has natural ballskills to make tough catches look easy, using his long arms to extend and snag even when blanketed by defenders. He averaged only 12.2 yards per catch last season, but flashes the balance and toughness as a ballcarrier to burst through tackle attempts.
The debate with Engram is what position he will play in the NFL. As a blocker, he delivers a pop at the point of attack and isn’t shy about aggressively mixing things up, but he lacks the bulk or power to consistently hold up inline. Engram isn’t asked to run a diverse route tree in the Rebels’ offense and needs considerable work on the details to avoid tipping his path. He has strong hands, but tends to play too quick at times, taking his eye off the ball before securing, which leads to negative plays.
A receiver/tight end tweener, Engram might not have a true position in most NFL offenses, but his athleticism and receiving traits are NFL quality for the coaching staff that utilizes his talents correctly. With the Rebels top two receivers from last season (Treadwell, Cody Core) now in the NFL, Engram should see his role expand in 2016, especially considering the extra work he and Kelly have invested this offseason. And if he can develop his route-running and improve his overall impact within the offense, Engram should find a home in the NFL as a productive “big” slot receiver.