New York Giants great Mark Bavaro knows a thing or two about young tight ends making an immediate impression on an offense. The Big Blue legend currently is helping drive the hype train for new rookie Evan Engram.
A two-time All-Pro tight end, Bavaro attended workouts this offseason and glowed about the rookie's potential.
"He's unbelievable," Bavaro told the New York Post of Engram. "I don't know what he's going to look like in pads and playing football. But he can move. He can run and he can catch. He's impressive."
Engram is the first tight end the Giants drafted in the first round since Jeremy Shockey in 2002. Bavaro questioned the team strategy to try to plug in free agents and late-round picks at the position.
"I don't know why they had that philosophy," Bavaro said. "That might have gone all the way back to me. A lot of people didn't know who I was or didn't expect anything of me. But there have been so many front-office changes I wouldn't think they thought of anything like that."
Engram owns the size and pass-catching ability to add a new dimension to a diverse Giants passing attack.
"The way the game is today, you need a big pass-catching tight end, a guy who can run like a wide receiver," Bavaro said. "That's the way the game is. But for some reason they wouldn't get anybody."
It might be a tad early to get the Engram hype train rolling. Tight end is a notoriously difficult position for rookies to make an immediate impact. Highly selected tight ends have struggled to make the transition to such a nuanced position. First-round pick Eric Ebron earned just 25 catches for 248 yards as a rookie; Vernon Davis: 20 for 265 yards; Jimmy Graham: 31 for 356; Jermaine Gresham: 52 for 471; Rob Gronkowski: 42 for 546.
Tight ends taking time to mature is not a new phenomenon, either. Shannon Sharpe caught seven passes for 99 yards as a rookie and didn't break 500 yards until his third season. Tony Gonzalez earned 33 catches for just 368 yards as a rookie.
Engram must learn the nuances of the Giants' route tree and make great strides in his blocking over the course of the next few months to play a major role in Year 1.
It's a difficult transition, but the Giants believe Engram can buck the trend and deliver from the get-go. Even if Engram doesn't splash as a rookie, the 6-foot-3 tight end possesses the raw talent to be a difference maker in New York for years to come.