Ideal Landing Spots for Former 1st-Round Draft Busts at 2021 NFL Trade Deadline

Alex KayContributor IOctober 27, 2021

New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (88) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

The NFL trade deadline will see all types of players get dealt.

One of the more intriguing possibilities is a disappointing former first-round pick getting traded by the team that drafted him.

These players, often still on their rookie deals but unlikely to earn extensions, may still have some upside, but they haven't lived up to their potential to start their careers.

We'll be highlighting two such players heading into the 2021 NFL trade deadline.

N'Keal Harry, the No. 32 pick in 2019, hasn't panned out for the New England Patriots. The wideout has tantalized with his potential, but he's fallen out of favor in Foxborough due to injuries and inconsistent play.

Evan Engram, whom the New York Giants used the No. 23 pick on in 2017, is nearing the end of his contract. The G-Men picked up the tight end's option for 2021, but Engram hasn't done enough to warrant a long-term deal this offseason. Even with Big Blue's lack of healthy pass-catchers, Engram has failed to distinguish himself and hasn't been reliable.

Both Harry and Engram have a strong chance to be moved before the deadline on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.

Here's a recap of their careers so far and where these first-round "busts" could end up if traded.


WR N'Keal Harry, New England Patriots

Stew Milne/Associated Press

Harry was the second wide receiver off the board in the 2019 draft. New England was seeking a big, athletic wideout to complement quarterback Tom Brady.

The rookie started slow after suffering an ankle injury in training camp. He began his career on injured reserve and struggled to get in sync with Brady when he finally did see the field.

Harry finished his seven-game rookie season with 12 catches on 24 targets for 105 yards and two touchdowns.

The 6'4", 225-pound wideout failed to establish a rapport with Cam Newton as a sophomore, catching just 33 of his 57 targets for 309 yards and two scores despite participating in 14 games.

Mac Jones' ascension to New England's starting QB offered another opportunity for Harry to turn his career around. Harry missed the first three games with a shoulder injury, and he's caught only three of his five targets for 47 yards since.

With Harry striking out with three different quarterbacks over three seasons, the Pats are likely to move on from him before the deadline. 

One team Harry could land with is the Jacksonville Jaguars.

ESPN's Bill Barnwell cooked up a hypothetical scenario involving Harry and another first-round pick that hasn't panned out.

New England would send the Jags Harry, a 2022 fourth-round pick and a 2023 sixth-round pick in exchange for K'Lavon Chaisson and a 2023 fifth-rounder.

Chaisson was selected No. 20 in last year's draft but hasn't done much of note during his season-and-a-half as a pro. The LSU product has appeared in 22 games—starting six—but has notched only 34 tackles and two sacks.

A change of scenery could benefit both Harry and Chaisson.

Chaisson, still just 22 years old, would join a New England defense that could help him reach his potential. The Pats have 15 sacks on the season—while the Jaguars have a league-worst eight—and veteran edge defenders like Matt Judon, who is tied for the third-most sacks in the NFL, to help develop the young pass-rusher.

The Patriots would likely be happy to net anything of value in return for Harry. The Jaguars wouldn't need to give up much to get a receiver with plenty of promise to develop alongside rookie No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence.

Surrounding the Clemson product with more weapons would only help Jacksonville get out of its rebuild and back to contending. Harry may still yet be a quality NFL receiver; it just isn't likely to happen in New England.


TE Evan Engram, New York Giants

Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

It's hard to believe it's been four-and-a-half years since the Giants made Engram the second tight end off the board during the 2017 draft.

The once-promising Ole Miss product has been plagued by inconsistency and health issues since.

Engram assumed New York's starting tight end role immediately and had his best season as a pro as a rookie. He finished the year with 64 receptions for 722 yards and six touchdowns, all marks that remain career highs.

Engram's career began getting derailed in his sophomore season when he missed five games due to knee and hamstring injuries. He missed another eight games in 2019 with knee and foot ailments but bounced back a bit last year with a healthy campaign that resulted in a Pro Bowl appearance.

While Engram's 2020 season earned him accolades, he had 11 drops, many of which were detrimental. His mistakes cost the team an estimated 35 points last year and potentially even the NFC East title.

Despite his struggles, "multiple teams" are interested in trading for him, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

At 27 years of age, Engram doesn't hold the same promise of earlier in his career, but he does bring a rare skill set to the table. The 6'3", 240-pound tight end is one of the more athletic players at the position, capable of creating mismatches and burning slower defenders.

The New Orleans Saints are an intriguing spot for Engram. They haven't seen much production from the position since trading Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks in 2015.

Adam Trautman is the top pass-catching tight end on the New Orleans roster, but he has a meager nine receptions for 100 yards on the season. Juwan Johnson—a converted wide receiver—has flashed potential with three touchdowns but has just seven receptions for 72 yards.

Quarterback Jameis Winston would benefit from another big pass-catcher to target. The signal-caller heavily favored the position during his time with the Buccaneers, targeting his tight ends an average of 108 times per season, resulting in an average of 71 catches for 859 yards and nine touchdowns, per Mark Strausberg of Athlon Sports. 

With Engram's contract set to expire following the 2021 season, it shouldn't take much to get the tight end over to the Big Easy. If the Saints are willing to offer a middle-to-late-round pick, it should be enough to convince the Giants to move on.