O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, David Njoku: The 2017 first-round tight ends lurking in George Kittle’s shadow | NFL Information


Evan Engram has struggled with injuries over the last two seasons

Evan Engram has struggled with accidents during the last two seasons

Take a second to forged your eyes again on the 2017 NFL Draft and it’s simple to be side-tracked by the Chicago Bears’ forever-to-be scrutinised resolution to pick Mitchell Trubisky forward of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.

Chances are you’ll recall that one being talked about a few times since then.

Scroll a bit additional down the listing and there’s a reminder that three tight ends had been additionally chosen within the first spherical for the primary time since Jeremy Shockey, Dan Graham and Jerramy Stevens in 2002, and for simply the second time since 1978.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made O.J. Howard the earliest tight finish choice since Eric Ebron at No 10 in 2014 with the 19th general decide, the New York Giants addressed a Will Tye-led place group with Evan Engram at No 23 and the Cleveland Browns turned to David Njoku at 29th general.

Collectively they epitomised the evolution of the NFL’s trendy tight finish, flaunting receiver-calibre velocity able to creating separation from linebackers together with the normal dimension and athleticism that made them a mismatch for defensive backs.

It was solely actually Howard who warranted recognition for his blocking experience, maybe explaining why he was the primary of the three off the board. The very fact Engram and Njoku had been so shut behind in the meantime spoke to the attraction of their receiver attributes.

5 extra tight ends could be taken earlier than the San Francisco 49ers used the 146th general decide on Iowa’s George Kittle who, three seasons later, has mustered extra receiving yards, made extra catches and performed extra video games than any considered one of Howard, Engram or Njoku. He’s additionally the one one to have been named to the Professional Bowl, incomes his second profession choice final season.

After a modest rookie 12 months of 43 catches for 515 yards and two touchdowns, Kittle set an NFL report for many receiving yards in a season by a good finish with 1,377 for 5 touchdowns in 2018. He adopted that up in 2019 with 1,053 yards in 14 video games as a necessary piece to Kyle Shanahan’s offense on the street to Tremendous Bowl LIV.

2017 NFL Draft tight finish picks

ParticipantGroupSphericalChoose No.
O.J. HowardTampa Bay Buccaneers119
Evan EngramNew York Giants123
David NjokuCleveland Browns129
Gerald EverettLos Angeles Rams244
Adam ShaheenChicago Bears245
Jonnu SmithTennessee Titans3100 (compensatory decide)
Michael RobertsDetroit Lions4127
Jake ButtDenver Broncos5145
George KittleSan Francisco 49ers5146
Jordan LeggettNew York Jets5150
Jeremy SprinkleWashington Soccer Group5154
Eric SaubertAtlanta Falcons5174
Bucky HodgesMinnesota Vikings6201
Mason SchreckCincinnati Bengals7251

A ravenous urge for food for blocking assignments and his bullish success fee upon engagement is matched by a damaging risk within the go recreation, underlined by his NFL report as the primary tight finish to guide the league in yards after catch with 870.

His ascent to seventh on the NFL’s High 100 listing, as voted for by the gamers, has thus far eclipsed what have been three unspectacular seasons for Howard, Engram and Njoku.

With every having their fifth-year contract choices exercised, the duty now could be proving they’re worthy of a pleasant pay day additional down the road.

For Howard, it is but to actually take off in Tampa Bay. His rookie season amounted to simply 26 catches for 432 yards and 6 touchdowns as he discovered himself beneath Cameron Brate within the tight finish pecking order.

The majority of the targets in the meantime fell to Mike Evans, Adam Humphries and DeSean Jackson in what was a poor 5-11 Buccaneers workforce.

6:43
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight finish O.J. Howard joins Good Morning Soccer to debate the hype surrounding the Bucs in 2020, particularly with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski on board.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight finish O.J. Howard joins Good Morning Soccer to debate the hype surrounding the Bucs in 2020, particularly with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski on board.

Hassle establishing himself continued in 2018 when he made 34 catches for 565 yards and 5 touchdowns earlier than being positioned on injured reserve with foot and ankle accidents after 10 video games final November. Tampa completed 5-11 once more as Jameis Winston and Fitzpatrick alternated between the beginning job at quarterback and the bench.

The arrival of Bruce Arians as head coach in January 2019 got here as a promising treatment, even when the influence wasn’t rapid.

Howard’s 34 catches for 459 yards and one landing had been buried nicely beneath 1,000 yard seasons for each Evans and Chris Godwin, nevertheless his snap rely on offense was the very best it has been within the NFL thus far at 782 (68.72 %). That’s in comparison with 435 (39.01 %) in 2018 and 608 (55.83 %) in 2017.

Rob Gronkowski’s arrival earlier this offseason naturally raised doubts over Howard’s position within the Bucs offense, which in flip sparked rumours of a possible commerce. These strategies have since been subtle and thru the smoke has emerged an encouraging setup for the Alabama product.

Moreover Tom Brady’s love of throwing to tight ends, Arians has made no secret of his plans for 2 tight finish units and even 13-personnel packages at occasions. Gronk could also be much less competitors and extra so a serving to hand to raise Howard.

Both method, a breakout 12 months must be on the horizon.

2:02
Professional Soccer Focus’ George Chahrouri examines whether or not 49ers’ George Kittle or Kansas Metropolis Chiefs’ Travis Kelce is the NFL’s greatest tight finish

Professional Soccer Focus’ George Chahrouri examines whether or not 49ers’ George Kittle or Kansas Metropolis Chiefs’ Travis Kelce is the NFL’s greatest tight finish

Elsewhere in New York, there is no such thing as a disputing Engram’s credentials as one of many Giants’ most gifted weapons on offense.

He exhibited as a lot in his rookie 12 months when he shouldered the burden as Eli Manning’s main goal at occasions amid accidents to Odell Beckham Jr, Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall. Engram led the workforce with 64 catches, 115 targets and 6 landing receptions, the latter marking probably the most from a rookie tight finish in Giants historical past.

His 722 receiving yards had been additionally second solely to Shepard’s 731 because the Giants limped to a 3-13 report.

Very like Howard, accidents have been a hindrance, whereas an unpleasant rebuild has been one other main stumbling block. MCL and foot accidents restricted him to 11 video games in 2018, though Engram was nonetheless in a position to make 45 catches for 577 yards and three touchdowns in a Saquon Barkley-led offense.

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The Ole Miss product opened 2019 together with his maiden 100-yard recreation with 11 catches for 116 yards and one landing in a defeat to the Dallas Cowboys, earlier than amassing 113 yards and one landing in a win over Tampa Bay two weeks later.

On December 17 he was positioned on injured reserve with a foot damage that had dominated him out of the final 5 video games, Engram managing simply eight in whole on the 12 months together with 467 yards for 3 touchdowns.

Well being allowing, he now has the chance to consolidate a outstanding position below new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who utilised the fingers of tight finish Jason Witten closely in his prime with the Cowboys.

Although he missed half the season by damage, Engram constructed a budding rapport with quarterback Daniel Jones in 2019 – one Garrett will little question be seeking to broaden.

The much less mentioned about 2019 for Njoku in Cleveland, the higher.

A damaged wrist sustained throughout the identical touchdown that recreation him a concussion in Week Two resulted in a spot on injured reserve on September 20. He was activated once more on December 7 however completed the season with simply 5 catches for 41 yards in 4 video games.

Of the three, Njoku might nicely have the hardest combat on his fingers as he not solely competes with free company signing Austin Hooper but additionally appears to regain some belief after lately withdrawing his commerce request.

Njoku’s position has been considered one of intrigue because the appointment of recent head coach Kevin Stefanski, who fielded a minimum of two tight ends for 43 % of the Minnesota Vikings’ performs as offensive coordinator final season.

It was maybe Dalvin Cook dinner, although, who benefited most from 12 personnel packages as Stefanski employed a run-first offense, which could possibly be the case once more in Cleveland given Nick Chubb’s rise.

With that in thoughts, the problem for Njoku to develop as a dependable blocker nonetheless very a lot stands.

Njoku goes up for the touchdown catch against the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018

Njoku goes up for the landing catch in opposition to the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018

Regardless of that commerce request, the previous highschool excessive bounce champion seems to stay a part of the Browns’ plans shifting ahead.

“We’ve got been very constant that we expect David could be a massive a part of the place we try to go as a workforce this 12 months and that we expect he has an vital position to play for this roster and for this workforce,” mentioned normal supervisor Andrew Berry.

“We’re wanting ahead to working with David. I believe he can have a incredible 12 months.”

Njoku made 32 catches 386 yards and 4 touchdowns in his rookie 12 months, earlier than 5 begins grew to become 14 in 2018 as he contributed 56 receptions for 639 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Stefanski’s tight-end pleasant offense ought to give Njoku a platform to flourish, notably when the presence of Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry continues to limit double-team luxuries and the specter of Chubb stays an ever-growing speaking level in opposition defensive conferences.

It hasn’t been a straightforward journey for both one of many trio, however 2020 affords a chance to make some floor on Kittle’s unwavering progress.

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