Drafting Buccaneers: O.J. Howard (TE) Scouting Report

The Buccaneers found a gem in second-year undrafted free-agent Cameron Brate at tight end. Now, entering his third year, there’s speculation he may be joined by a first-round pick in 2017 from the Alabama Crimson Tide.

When head coach Dirk Koetter announced Brate would be the starting tight end entering 2016’s training camp there were more than a few who figured Austin Seferian-Jenkins would regain the job at some point during the regular season.

Following his DUI arrest and less than glamorous video release from the incident, ASJ was unceremoniously released and the Harvard grad was firmly cemented in his role on his way to eight touchdown catches and a Pro Bowl snub.

As we get deeper into the lead-up to the 2017 NFL Draft, one name has stuck around the team more and more as a potential option to give quarterback Jameis Winston some more weapons on offense.

Alabama’s O.J. Howard is not only the best tight end prospect in this class, but he may be the best at his position to come out since Tyler Eifert was taken 21st by the Cincinnati Bengals.

There’s been a two-year drought for tight end’s taken in the first-round, but this National Champion is poised to get his group back in the limelight.

 

WHO: O.J. Howard

POSITION:  TE

SCHOOL:  University of Alabama

HEIGHT/WEIGHT:  6’6” / 251 lbs

CLASS:  Senior

2016 Season Stats:

  • 45 Receptions / 595 yards / 13.2 yards per catch / 3 touchdowns

Games Watched:

  • Alabama @ LSU (1 catch / -3 yards / -3 ypc / 0 touchdowns)
  • Alabama vs Texas A&M (8 catches / 69 yards / 8.6 ypc / 1 touchdown)
  • *Alabama vs Clemson (4 catches / 106 yards / 26.5 ypc / 1 touchdown)

*Conference Championship or Bowl Game

Strengths:

  • In-Line Blocking
  • Run After Catch Ability
  • Athleticism
  • Size

Weaknesses:

  • Limited Statistical Production
  • Route Running

Scheme Fit:

Capable of being a starting NFL tight end from day one, Howard is athletically gifted while being strong enough to hold his own as an in-line blocker. He’ll benefit most from a scheme which asks him to block more often than not while allowing him to mature as a receiver through his first season.

Injury History:

No Significant Injuries

Off-Field Issues:

No Significant Off-Field Issues

Career Projection:

1st Year:

Great addition to his team’s blocking scheme adding the ability to leak out following chip blocks, or motion in and out of the slot when needed. Having the ability to pull as a blocker with the instincts to seal the lane, his impact on the offense will be felt on the field more than it will be measured statistically.

3rd Year:

Starting caliber tight end with Pro Bowl potential as a dual threat who will keep defenses guessing, forcing linebackers and safeties to play honest lest they allow the ultra-athletic tight end get open in space.

Summary:

Started at least three games in all four years in Tuscaloosa and twice showed big time playing ability in National Championship games.

Set a championship game record with 208-yards of offense in 2015 and followed it up with another 106-yards in a 2016 loss to Clemson.

As a receiver, he’s big and athletic with the speed to separate from linebackers and the size to exploit defensive backs making him a true Jimmy Graham like match-up problem.

One of the better blocking tight ends to come out of the draft in the last decade, Howard held his own aiding in the Alabama run-first offense in crucial periods of the season.

Against LSU, he got a key block to seal the lane as a pulling blocker allowing the Crimson Tide to convert a 3rd-and-Long from inside their own five-yard line. This came in a game which finished with just one touchdown scored, and could have easily turned against his team had the Tigers gotten beneficial field position had his team not picked up the first down.

In another SEC contest, the receiving stud once again showed off his blocking ability by helping to protect his quarterback and lead the way for the running game while single-handedly snuffing top prospect Myles Garrett’s attempts to get to the quarterback at times.

He will need to learn route running better at the NFL level, but used properly should still have an early impact with some smart coaching and game planning.

His flaws as a blocker are in the second and third level as he tends to allow defenders to come to him which will lead to tacklers getting to his ball-carrier more often than they should unless he becomes more aggressive down field.

On speed rushes from outside edge defenders Howard can get over extended and will draw some holding flags as a professional because of it.

Overall, this young man is a rare talent who can play every down as an in-line tight end or in the slot and be effective on every snap no matter the play call.

Projected Draft Position: First Round

Pro Comparison: Kellen Winslow

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