With so much data available to sports analysts and fans willing to put in the effort to find it, we as a fantasy community, have come to the point of information overload. As fantasy football managers begin to lean less and less on the eye test (with good reason) the new question becomes: which numbers matter? And why? In reasoning what numbers stand out as signal versus what to tune out as noise, my answer might seem ambivalent but stick with me. They all do. The trick to using them correctly is to contextualize how and when to weight those numbers against one another. I’m firmly of the opinion that #ContextMatters and this NFL season has once again proved that to devastating effect. How you ask? This series will examine a few key situations on your Dynasty Fantasy Football rosters.
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Evan Engram and His Future for Dynasty Fantasy Football
A common question in my twitter mentions recently has been what has happened to the Giants’ fellow wonderkid Evan Engram. After a jaw-dropping debut in his 2017 rookie season Engram has fallen back down to earth this year. His 2018 stat line of just 26 catches, 334 yards, and two scores even seems to suggest that he has not only hit the surface this year, but has cratered and may yet sink deeper.
Q. What should dynasty fantasy football gowners do with this seemingly mercurial talent?
A. Hold him. Trade for him if you can now or in the offseason at decreased cost.
Why is he a buy in my book? Hear me out.
It is common knowledge that Engram’s receiving numbers last season were greatly aided by serious injuries to both Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, both of whom missed significant portions of the 2017 season. Engram, by default, was catapulted into an undeserved 20-percent target-share and played 80% of the Giants snaps (15th NFL). He wasn’t efficient by any means as evidenced by his 55.7% catch rate (31st NFL) and league worst 11.3% drop rate, yet his counting stats (64-722-6) fooled fantasy owners into believing Engram was already an established talent. As we’ve seen this season, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Still, one could argue that Engram has actually improved this season despite the grim picture painted by his counting statistics. His catch rate is up 14% to 69.7% (15th NFL). His drop rate is down 5.2% to just 6.1%. And his QB rating when targeted has actually ballooned up to 112.8 (9th NFL), a stark departure from his 73.9 rating (33rd NFL) by that same metric a year ago. By all accounts Engram is becoming a more reliable receiver this season despite his perceived step back.
So what gives? Well, this is where context comes into focus. This line of thought is invaluable for Dynasty Fantasy Football owners.
While much of Engram’s regression can be traced back directly to the health of OBJ and Shepard in 2018 as well as the addition of fellow target monster Saquon Barkley, I believe there is more than meets the eye. In my calculation, Engram’s main issue this season has been his decreased snap share. So far this year Engram, when healthy, has only seen the field on 69.8 percent of the Giants snaps. This is a far cry from the 80-percent mark he reached in 2018.
It’s not as if the Giants are just featuring the tight end position less in their offense either as Engram’s backup, Rhett Ellison, has found his way onto the field early and often despite his worse QB rating when targeted. Engram’s decline in playing time is, in my opinion, a function of Eli’s inability to scramble and create extra time in the pocket. So far this season the Giants signal caller has taken 41 sacks which ranks in the bottom three in the NFL (Week 14 not included) despite the Giants many attempts to keep Eli clean. All this has taken place despite the Giants attempts to provide Eli with extra in-line blockers as evidenced by their running 2-1 personnel 19 percent of the time (5 percent higher than league average). Eli is a statue at this point, and because Engram is a non-traditional “move” TE with limitations to his blocking prowess he has suffered as a result.
Luckily for Engram, Eli Manning’s dead cap number drops to just $6.2M next season, a far cry from the $28M (his lowest # on his current deal) number in 2018. This all but guarantees Manning won’t be back with the team next year and this analysis doesn’t account for the devolution of Manning’s play which would also correlate with the previous assertion.
A new more mobile QB would likely benefit Engram as would improvements to the Giants O-line in general. After ranking as the 26th worst O-line in football this year the Giants would be highly incentivized to again look for reinforcements. As Engram continues to mature and improve in this offense, 2019 should bring more opportunities his way. It is too early to disregard the talent Engram showed when used so far throughout his career, especially as his breakout season came four years before an average TE’s breakout age (27). He is still firmly a top 6 TE in my view and he should also be in yours. All he needs is opportunity much like fellow labelled “bust” too soon, Amari Cooper. Dynasty Fantasy Football favors those who play the long game.
Agree? Think I’m nuts? Let me know on twitter @ FF_Wonderkid or ask with #WonderQs. Let me know who else you’re wondering about this year as a topic for a future article. Thanks for reading.
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