The New York Jets have a premium pick in the first round of the NFL Draft. Can they afford to use it on tight end O.J. Howard?
With the 2017 NFL Draft just a few days away now, should the New York Jets use their first -ound selection (sixth overall) on tight end O.J. Howard from Alabama? That is a premium pick and the Jets have a plethora of needs as they rebuild their roster. Can they afford to take Howard, as talented as he is, that high in the draft?
I wrote last month that Gang Green should draft former Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson in the initial round. However, if he has been selected already, should Howard be their pick? Let’s examine this more closely.
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The Prattville, AL native is universally considered to be the best tight end in this year’s draft. He is 6-6, 251 pounds and is a matchup nightmare with his combination of size, speed and athletic ability. Howard is also a strong blocker and is known for excellent body control and route-running. He would be an excellent security blanket for a team with a young quarterback — a squad like the Jets.
Despite being under utilized in the run-heavy offense of Alabama, Howard was at his best in the biggest games. In 2016 he was named Offensive MVP in the National Championship Game against Clemson with a five-reception, 208-yard, two touchdown virtuoso performance. In this year’s title clash with the Tigers, Howard paced all receivers with 106 yards on four catches and a score. There is very little he cannot do.
As a pro, Howard could be a devastating mismatch weapon and one of the top receiving tight ends in the NFL. He should continue to improve and be a quality blocker, but probably will never be a bull. Howard looks like a potential 10-to-15-year quality starter. In terms that and his talent, Howard is deserving of mid- to late first-round consideration in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Sounds great, right? Well, not so fast.
The last tight end to be drafted as high as sixth in the first round was Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers in 2006. That was a long time ago. This would be a luxury pick for the Jets, albeit a solid one. Tight end has been a wasteland for New York for several seasons now. With so many holes to fill on their roster, can they afford to select a premium tight end that high in the first round? I say no.
As tempting as the selection of Howard would be, the Jets need to concentrate on other areas of need first — quarterback (Watson), cornerback (Marshon Lattimore) or safety (Jamal Adams/Malik Hooker) come to mind immediately. The No. 6 overall pick is just a little too rich for a tight end, even a tight end as talented as Howard.