New York Giants’ second year tight end Evan Engram sustained an MCL sprain this past Sunday that, reportedly, has him considered “week-to-week.” With his expected absence, veteran tight end Rhett Ellison will take on a more prominent role in Big Blue’s offensive scheme. Though he has never been known as a threat in the passing game, this week against the New Orleans Saints, Ellison may prove to be a pleasant surprise for the team, it’s fans and, quite possibly, fantasy football owners.
First off, let’s look at his performance last Sunday. Though he is mainly known to be a blocking specialist, Ellison proved to be serviceable in the passing game, hauling in all three of his targets for 39 yards and a touchdown.
While these stats are by no means earth shattering, they were good enough to equal a solid nine fantasy points (standard scoring format). That point total translated into the fifth best fantasy turnout for tight end’s in Week 3. With the fact that the position’s fantasy depth is lacking, Ellison could be a serviceable flier for Week 4 against New Orleans, especially for those who typically have Engram as their starting tight end.
Next, let’s look at New York’s matchup: the New Orleans Saints. Over the first three weeks of the season, the New Orleans Saints have struggled mightily against the pass, letting up an average of 345 yards-per-game and a total of eight touchdowns. With this, the Giants’ aerial attack could be in for a huge day. And, while many may automatically assume the likes of Odell Beckham Jr, Sterling Shepard and Saquon Barkley should prosper from this matchup, so too could Ellison.
In preparation for Sunday’s 4:25 PM (ET) outing at MetLife Stadium, the focus for the Saints defense is almost certainly centered around how to slow down New York’s juggernauts Beckham Jr and Barkley, as is the case for most other teams. With these aforementioned players being highlighted by the defense, both Shepard and Ellison could be seen as afterthoughts, which could see them in favorable matchups throughout the contest. Favorable matchups could easily equate to solid fantasy production for both players.
Lastly, we must acknowledge the fact that head coach Pat Shurmur LOVES him some Ellison. With their relationship dating back to 2016 when both were apart of the Minnesota Vikings, Shurmur has made it known that he has the utmost confidence in the 29-year-old tight end. Shurmur has gone as far as to compare Ellison to legendary New York Giants tight end Mark Bavaro.
“He’s very good at what he does, he can line up anywhere, he finds a way to make plays. Some guys just have a knack for that. He finds a way to make plays. Very trustworthy and very tough, and he’s wired like a football player, and that is what you’re looking for. I made the analogy, and this probably isn’t fair because I don’t know Mark Bavaro that well, but I sensed the same kind of aura when I met him the other night – just a tough guy that’s going to do what he’s asked and let the chips fall. That’s what Rhett is.”
-Pat Shurmur on Rhett Ellison
Shurmur, a former tight end’s coach, knows a thing or two about the position. For a Giants fan, having a player be compared to Bavaro, a beloved receiving tight end before it was the “norm”, is certainly a big deal. With his songs of confidence and praise, don’t be surprised if Shurmur looks to get Ellison more involved in the offensive attack during Engram’s absence.
Though he may not be a household name, Rhett Ellison (available in 99% of ESPN Fantasy leagues) could very well be a serviceable flier for those rostering Engram. Already this season, Ellison has caught 100% of his targets (six) for 60 yards and a touchdown. Now, with his new role as starting tight end, the veteran should add to his season totals, starting Sunday against the Saints.