In dynasty fantasy football, typically you only want to look about 2-3 years in the future. Given the sudden changes in the sport, it's hard to look any further than that. If you saw a picture tweeted by the great Ryan McDowell of ADP from 2013, some of the names are horrifying. Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, C.J. Spiller, RGIII, Percy Harvin and many more now irrelevant players all made the top 25. So when your team hits that potential 2-3 year window to contend, you don't want to miss it. And if you're not following Ryan on Twitter, shame on you (@RyanMc23 for those who are ashamed).
Evan Engram seemed to be the only shining star in an otherwise lost season for the New York Giants in 2017 as he compiled one of the best rookie seasons for a tight end that the league has seen in the last 15 years. Piling up 722 receiving yards on 64 receptions along with 6 scores, Engram put together nothing short of a stellar rookie year. Leading his team in targets with 115, he became Eli Manning’s new safety net after Odell Beckham Jr. went down with a broken ankle in Week 5. At 6’ 3”, 230lbs, Engram is a dynamic playmaker who is a matchup nightmare no matter where you line him up. He is still a top 5 dynasty TE in my eyes given his talent and performance last year, but you have to ask yourself; If you're poised to win in the next year or two, how much actual production is he going to give you?
Now, Engram's regression has a lot of obvious reasons to the casual fan. The aforementioned Beckham Jr. is on track to be ready by Week 1, they drafted Saquon Barkley who is a threat to catch passes out of the backfield, and Sterling Shepard, who had a nice year of his own, should also return healthy. Even “Chad”, the one guy in your office redraft fantasy league who still hasn’t paid you from last season, can see that Engram’s target share is going to shrink. But the real question is, by how much?
As much attention Beckham Jr. needs off the field, he needs the same if not more on the field. The former LSU Tiger is a target monster and rightfully so. Playing only 12 games his rookie year, he still ended up leading the team in targets with 130, averaging 10.8 targets a game. Playing the full 16 games in 2015, he received 26% of the entire team’s targets (158 of 615 targets). The following year, he was the target on almost 30% (28.3%) of the team’s passes (169 of 597 targets). In the two full games he played last year, he had 15 and 13 targets respectively. Engram in those two games? He caught 9 passes on 14 total targets for 89 yards and a score. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take 4/40 and the possibility of a score from my TE all day but not from one who is as highly valued as Engram.
New head coach and play caller Pat Shurmur now has one of the most electric players to come out college in a long time in his backfield. Barkley’s hype knows no boundaries as it’s only climbed since the end of his collegiate career. Catching 54 passes for 632 yards and 3 touchdowns his senior year, the Penn State product is a complete bellcow who can catch passes out of the backfield. Can you guess who loves to throw passes to his running backs? Pat Shurmur. Last year as the OC of the Vikings, he targeted his running backs 101 times which would have been the team’s second-highest total behind Adam Thielen. After Dalvin Cook went down in Week 4, Jerick McKinnon took over the passing down role and averaged 4.6 targets a game while splitting time with Latavius Murray. In 2016, Shurmur targeted his running backs 5.7 times a game between McKinnon and Matt Asiata (I didn’t need to name Asiata necessarily but I just haven’t written his name in an article since a waiver wire article in 2014 and couldn’t miss this opportunity). Last year, Giants running backs were targeted 86 times and it’s not unfathomable to see Barkley and company get north of 100 targets. The difference with Barkley and Shurmur’s past years is that Shurmur primarily had a pass catching back and a typical smash mouth running back. Barkley can do both. If Barkley almost never leaves the field, he’ll get the same target treatment as Shurmur has used in the past if not more. Once again, another solid chunk of Engram’s targets could find a new home.
Digesting all these numbers, it’s very hard to make the case for Engram to see anywhere near the volume he did last year. Last year the team had just over 600 targets to distribute with Engram getting about 20% of those. The last three years Beckham Jr. has averaged a monstrous 153 targets. Add another 100 for the Giants running backs, conservatively give Shepard 85 targets, and that’s 338 targets between those 3 players. That’s 56% of the team's targets from last year, with 41% of those coming with the addition of Beckham for a full season and Barkley. It would not surprise me if Engram received around 75-80 targets, 35-40 less than last year. This isn’t even discussing his team-leading 6 scores. All of Engram’s touchdowns came inside the 20-yard line where the Giants struggled running the ball which conceivably won’t happen with Barkley. Not to mention Beckham Jr. who has averaged double-digit touchdowns every year he's been healthy. Not only will Engram get hit with a target regression but a scoring regression is coming too.
There is a real chance that Engram sees a massive regression and how much is that going to help you contend these next two years? Not too much. The great thing is, his age and performance last year still makes his value a top 5 dynasty TE. Now is the time to sell and capitalize on a team with an aging TE who is looking to rebuild. Think of Greg Olsen or Rob Gronkowski, or if you believe in him, Jimmy Graham. Get one of those guys who has a chance to produce plus other players or picks to help make the push. I am not recommending you sell low, but I bet there are plenty of people who will pay for a 23-year-old TE who put up a season like he had last year.
I hate knocking players who I love the talent of because it’s not his skills I’m taking a jab at. I am a huge fan of his abilities and think he’s going to be very successful in the league long term. It's that his outlook for this year looks worrisome and it will take a freakish year from him to live up to his value. In the end, please don’t let this distract you from the fact that the New York football Giants took a running back at No. 2 when a future franchise QB was staring them in the face. But really, capitalize on his value now as he's not the TE you'll need to grab that championship and ride off into the sunset.