When the Giants took Evan Engram in the first round of the draft, they touted him as a dangerous weapon, a big target, and a player who they envisioned running deep routes up the middle of the field.
From what offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan can see, though, Engram can be much more than that.
"This is a legitimate vertical threat, but he' s not just a big receiver," Sullivan said Friday after getting his first look at Engram on the field at the Giants' rookie mini-camp. "He's a big strong guy. There's a size element that he has. He is not a big wide receiver. We do feel comfortable about the things we want him to do when he has his hand in the ground."
That's his coach-speak way of saying that despite the perception of the 6-3, 234-pound Engram as a poor blocker and as more of a receiving threat than anything else, Sullivan envisions him as a two-way tight end. It's too early, of course, for the Giants to get a real gauge on his ability as an NFL blocker, but Sullivan believes the potential is there.
"Often times people might look at him and say 'Oh he's just going to be there to split out wide,'" Sullivan said. "This is someone that has the ability, some of that upper body strength, and that size where he can fill some of those roles that we want as a tight end. We're going to be selective about what we want him to do, but he's not someone you're going to see strictly as displaced outside in the slot. He's a versatile player and a tough guy."
That's important because it will add to the chances of a mismatch if teams aren't sure what Engram is going to do. It also would add to the Giants' ability to add some diversity to their offense -- running two-tight end sets, for example, where maybe Engram could stay in and block while someone else runs a route, or even running one-tight end sets where it isn't obvious what Engram is going to do.
He wasn't asked to do much blocking at college, but that doesn't mean he can't.
"We can't hold against him what he has been asked to do in a previous offense," Giants head coach Ben McAdoo said. "We have to develop him as we go along and see what he can handle, see what he is comfortable with and see how we can push him to grow being comfortable and being uncomfortable.
"Where we start and where we finish may be two different things."
Still, even McAdoo knows that teaching Engram to block NFL players is going to be a bit of a challenge.
"Everything is going to be a challenge," McAdoo said. "He is coming from more of a spread-type offense where he was off the ball a ton."
There's plenty of time for teaching, though. For now, the coaches are working strictly off Engram's potential. And with Engram's speed -- his 4.42 was one of the fastest times of any player at the NFL scouting combine in March -- he could be very dangerous, especially if he can block a little, too.
"There is a versatility that he has we're hoping can create some problems for a defense from a matchup standpoint because of his speed and because of how he runs his routes like a wide receiver," Sullivan said. "He is that dynamic threat and he has a very confident but humble, very focused demeanor."