With the 19th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Buccaneers selected tight end O.J. Howard and instantly took their offensive unit to another level.
The Buccaneer offense just got a lot more dangerous. Jason Licht and company took advantage of a surprising slide and landed blue chip tight end O.J. Howard. The Alabama product is as clean as prospects come, with no real physical weakness and can really open up the Buccaneer offense.
Though a lot of fans wanted a running back (you know which one), the Bucs valued the diverse ways that a dominant tight end could help them play their preferred style of offense. A staple of Dirk Koetter’s offense is a deep stable of tight ends; before Austin Sefarian-Jenkins got busted for a DUI the Bucs had planned on featuring both he and Cameron Brate. The Bucs stuck to their plan and playing Luke Stocker, Brandon Myers along with Brate. A late season injury to Brate crippled the Bucs offense completely.
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That’s the first place O.J. Howard will help. The depth he provides allows Dirk Koetter to play two tight ends in either receiver roles or traditional tight end roles. Like Brate, Howard is a natural pass catcher with receiver skills in a tight end body. He’s faster than both Brate and Mike Evans and can outrun most linebackers and safeties regardless of where he lines up. Howard will be particularly dangerous on play-action with Jameis Winston; many of his big catches at Alabama came on play fakes.
What makes O.J. Howard particularly valuable to the Bucs and such a steal at pick 19 is his experience and upside as a run blocker. Nowadays finding tight ends that can catch
block is extremely difficult, and even some of the best in the league don’t spend much time as blockers. Eric Ebron was drafted tenth overall a few years ago and is horrific as a blocker. In Alabama’s run heavy offense, O.J. Howard can be seen frequently blocking on the line of scrimmage and out in space for Derrick Henry and Bo Scarborough. He’s not perfect but he’ll help as a blocker while he learns the nuances of pass catching. Something important to remember with Howard is that while he will change the offense it might not be reflected in statistics right away. Tight ends typically have a slow transition adjusting to the NFL and the Bucs may ease Howard into their game plan before featuring him as a pass catcher.
O.J. Howard will most of all make the Buccaneers less predictable. When Luke Stocker was on the field last year teams knew the Bucs were probably running, and when Brandon Myers was on the field the offense suffered in general. Howard takes the place of both of them and can play both early running downs and third downs as a reliable tool for Dirk Koetter.
What part of O.J. Howard’s repertoire are you most excited to see in action? His pass catching for Jameis Winston, or his help in the run game?