“I believe I’m a first round pick,” he said. “If that happens, it’s all in God’s hands. Just what I bring to the table, what I bring to a team on day one, I believe I am.”
On Thursday, that belief was validated. Engram, who finished his Ole Miss career as the all-time school leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches by a tight end, was taken No. 23 overall by the New York Giants. He joins an offense led by former Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning, who was drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.
Engram was the first player in school history to earn All-SEC honors four times. He ended his career as the nation’s leader among active tight ends in career receiving yards. Among all Rebels, he ranks fourth in career receptions, fifth in receiving yards and tied for sixth in touchdown catches.
Engram was a member of the same recruiting class of 2013 that produced three additional first round selections. Laremy Tunsil (Miami Dolphins), Laquon Treadwell (Minnesota Vikings) and Robert Nkemdiche (Arizona Cardinals) were all selected in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Engram, however, isn’t a former five-star prospect like the others. Actually, he didn’t receive his first scholarship offer until right before his senior high school season.
At the time, he was considered a ‘tweener’— a skill player too big for wide receiver, but not quite big enough for tight end. Spread offenses with hybrid tight ends weren’t widely adopted yet, and it didn’t help matters Engram’s high school had “a great running back,” as Engram said last year. He wasn’t involved in the offense much, and there wasn’t a lot of film out on him.
His break came when he participated in a summer camp at Ole Miss. The Rebels identified him before other high-major schools, landed and developed him. Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze was impressed with his ability to change directions and the burst he displayed, as well as the soft hands that have taken Engram from relative recruiting obscurity as a three-star prospect with additional offers from Wake Forrest and South Alabama, to prominence.
His recruiting eventually picked up some, but not much. Ohio, Navy and some mid-majors offered, but he was locked into Ole Miss, and he rewarded the Rebels with a decorated career as a four-year starter and two-year captain.
He’s likely to be used as a “big” wide receiver in New York in the mold of Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed, though he admitted he has work to do to adjust to blocking schemes at the highest level.
“They love my punch and my physicality and not shying away from contact,” he said. “There are a lot of coaching points that they want to coach me on. They’re pleased in the run game. I believe I’m probably one of the best receiving tight ends in this draft. They see potential in my blocking and some coaching points that can help it.”