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2017 NFL Draft Profile: O.J. Howard drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccanneers, the 19th pick of the First Round

OJ Howard is going to be a fantastic pro.

CFP National Championship Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Even as a freshman out of Prattville, you could tell that O.J. Howard was destined to be a high NFL draft pick. Despite being in a run-friendly offense, he received over 110 targets the last two seasons, and had over 80 receptions. When he was called upon to block, he spent the last two years putting the time in the weight room and on the practice field to become a complete player.

And that’s what you hear from every analyst: he’s a complete player — the most complete tight end and one of the most complete athletes in the draft. His work ethic, soft hands, size, speed, and abilities after the catch form the makings of a very long pro career. His ceiling is practically limitless.


Walter Scouting summarizes Howard’s game the best:

Howard is a real weapon as a receiver. Naturally, he is just extremely athletic and a fast tight end to get downfield quickly. He often burned man coverage and was very adept at finding the soft spot in zone coverage. Howard has a big frame to box out safeties and leaping ability with body control to make catches over defenders. Linebackers have little chance of covering Howard in man coverage; only elite NFL linebackers with great speed could cover Howard. He should be a tremendous middle-seam tight end who produces big plays for his offense.

Howard turned himself into a quality route-runner and has generally reliable hands, minus an occasional drop. He is a receiving weapon in the red zone, but also is dangerous with some run-after-the-catch skills. Howard has a burst to rip off yards and is tough to bring down in the open field for defensive backs. Defenders are caught by surprise as the big tight end runs away from many down the field.


The knocks on OJ’s game are few and far between. Could he be a more physical blocker? Sure. And, he does drop the occasional pass. But, it’s very hard to find any other complainte that does not come off as churlish or hypothetical or a fetishistic need to criticize for the sake of a fake balance. He is as complete a player at tight end as you’ll find at any level in the world. And, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he will be considered the best in a very short amount of time.

Seriously, the NFL’s official draft profile is seemingly looking for intangibles to complain of at this point:

Will need more muscle and mass to be an in-line blocker as a pro. Appears passive. Doesn't have the field demeanor of most Alabama players. Needs better hand strength to sustain his blocks. Can do better job of working feet into position after contact. Needs urgency in his routes to tilt defenders and get them guessing. Needs to show more elusiveness after the catch. Saw playing time diminish from junior to senior season. Explosive talent who doesn't make enough explosive plays. Scheme creates some wide-open deep-ball catches at time. Scouts question his competitive nature.