Speed makes McCaffrey, Engram mismatch threats

There is no substitute for speed in football, but it's even more valuable when the opposition can't match up with it.

Count Christian McCaffrey and Evan Engram as two rookies who should be able to exploit their speed as well as anyone from the 2017 NFL Draft. McCaffrey, drafted by the Carolina Panthers at No. 8 overall as a versatile running back, will be too much to handle in pass coverage, according to NFL Network analyst Curtis Conway.

"When you look at his speed, he's not quite 4.2 or 4.3. He's a 4.4 guy, but the thing I like about him, when you line him up at wide receiver, he can split out there and run routes like a true receiver. Then you can put him in the slot and get him matched up against a nickel corner or a linebacker," Conway said on NFL Network's Path to the Draft. "Good luck covering him with that. The first thing you question is his size, but let's not forget that at Stanford, they ran between the tackles. He's a very patient runner and when you have him in the backfield running routes, that means a linebacker has to cover him. He's going to be dangerous, and a mismatch."

The Giants drafted Engram No. 23 overall, adding the fastest tight end at the NFL Scouting Combine (4.42). The former Ole Miss tight end spent his entire college career working from the slot, so he's plenty familiar with beating safeties in coverage. Conway likes his chances of doing the same at NFL level.

"He's every bit of 6-3, 230. Brandon Marshall is actually bigger than him. But this guy can run. You're talking about a mismatch receiver going up the seam with the Giants," Conway said. "When you talk about Sterling (Shepard), Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, now you add Engram. Who do you cover? He's going to be another mismatch nightmare with that speed on a linebacker or a safety."

To whatever extent the Panthers and Giants can create favorable matchups in coverage for McCaffrey and Engram, the two should have no problem being assets to their respective offenses. And they'll do it with the kind of speed that linebackers don't like to deal with.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter *@ChaseGoodbread*.

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