With the rise in O.J. Howard’s stock, the Buccaneers could still look to the tight end position in the first round.
When you talk about the tight ends in the 2017 NFL draft class two things are usually brought up. One is how dominant O.J. Howard can be in the NFL and the other is about the sheer depth of the tight end position in this draft class. While Howard is the clear-cut top prospect in this draft class and a potential top 10 pick in the draft there is another who could end up being the perfect fit for this Buccaneers team.
When you look at this current Buccaneers offense there are a few issues that have yet to be dealt with. One is the running back position. As good as Jacquizz Rodgers was for us last year he is not a three-down or bell cow running back. However, as already discussed in a previous article, investing in an early running back would be a mistake in my opinion.
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In addition, the offensive line was not good enough last year, period. Outside of Ali Marpet, there was no really solid player on the line. Donovan Smith improved towards the end of the year and has potential while Kevin Pamphile was decent in pass protection but struggled to generate any real push in the run game. Center Joe Hawley was consistently injured whereas right tackle Demar Dotson just wasn’t his old self. Perhaps natural development from the younger guys as well as Sweezy coming in and providing strong blocking will eventually settle an inconsistent at best unit.
Lastly is the lack of receiving depth behind the starters. At tight end we have Cameron Brate. That’s pretty much it. At receiver, we have Mike Evans, the newly signed Desean Jackson, Adam Humphries, (Josh Huff?), and not much else outside of that. Bringing in more explosive targets for Jameis Winston is paramount if he is to reach his full potential.
This brings me to the man of the hour himself, David Njoku. While Brate was superb last year, leading the NFL in touchdowns at the tight end position, Koetter loves to run a lot of two-TE sets and who do we have outside of Brate? Luke Stocker? The bottom-line is we need to improve at the position.
Now let’s look at Njoku’s stats at Miami:
As you can see Njoku is kind of a one year wonder at Miami, but boy did he dominate that one year. He provided an insane 16.6 YPC average over two years. During his one year as a tight end his YPC was still an insanely high 16.2. That stat speaks to his YAC ability at the tight end position.
At the combine, Njoku posted a 37.5′ inch verticle to go along with an 11-foot broad jump and a 4.64 40 yard dash. This lets us see just how explosive Njoku is as an athlete and how he could potentially dominate jump ball situations against defenders in the NFL. As well as how well he could potentially take advantage of the mismatches that he will create with his size and speed.
The tight end position is deep this year, yes. OJ Howard will probably end up as the best overall tight end out of this class in the coming years, yes. However, he will also probably be off the board at the time of our selection and Njoku has the tools to develop into a solid blocking tight end to go along with being a pro bowl level receiving one as well. There’s not much more you can ask out of a first round pick, especially at 19.
Athletes like this don’t come around often and as New England has proven, a dominant tight end is a game changer in more ways than one. Coach Koetter spoke in the off-season about adding explosiveness to the offense. There would be no better way to supplement this need then to add one of the most explosive athletes in this class.
Now I want you to imagine a lineup that includes Evans on one side, Jackson on the other, Rogers in the backfield, with Brate and Njoku lined up next to the lineman. The offense would have a 6’5 monster on one side, a 5’10 speedster on the other, a sure-handed target running up one seam, and an athletic specimen running up the other. What a tasty treat this offense could be next season.