Buccaneers have excellent draft option to replace former starter

Jelani Woods, Tampa BAy Buccaneers (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Jelani Woods, Tampa BAy Buccaneers (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

O.J. Howard didn’t live up to the lofty expectations of Buccaneers fans given his incredible athleticism, but could Virginia’s Jelani Woods?

The Buccaneers have already learned from experience to avoid guys in the draft that are all tools. Sure, guys like this look great on paper and their upside is hard to ignore, but the years of waiting for O.J. Howard to match his talent and athleticism with his play on the field have made it difficult to sell Bucs fans on similar prospects.

Athleticism is a requirement to play in the NFL but it absolutely isn’t everything. Pure athletes flame out of the NFL every year, but it still hurts when you wonder why Howard was never able to put things together when it mattered most.

Regardless of what happened with Howard, the Bucs need to keep taking chances on athletic tight ends. Rob Gronkowski is a question mark and Cameron Brate is about as plain as they come, so trying to find a replacement to Howard where the value works is key.

Enter Virginia tight end Jelani Woods.

The Buccaneers should keep an eye on Jelani Woods

Woods is going to remind a lot of fans of O.J. Howard given his status as the most athletic tight end going into the draft ever, but it is important to ask how this will be different for the Bucs.

For starters, Woods is more athletic than Howard according to the ever-important relative athletic score. The game tape is limited with only one breakout season as a pass-catcher, but athleticism is important enough with tight ends that it almost makes sense to draft one on that right alone if they are the most athletic option in the modern era of the sport.

Athleticism makes or breaks a tight end, and Woods has no shortage of that.

However, the production on the field matters too. Woods only had one season in college with more than 20 receptions, but that year did end with 44 total receptions for 598 yards and eight touchdowns.

Is that year the norm or the outlier?

In truth, that question is hard to answer. Woods was extremely raw as a route-runner and in other aspects of the job, but his athleticism was able to help give an edge during games. This lack of refinement would hurt in the NFL where every guy is a peak athlete and crisp in what they do, but there is time to work Woods into this role.

Sloppy players have cleaned their game up in Tampa more than once. The tools are there, the Bucs have an opening, and the value of the pick will be far different than what Tampa spent on Howard.

Perhaps more Buccaneers fans would’ve given additional slack to Howard if he was a Day Three pick, and that is exactly where the Bucs have a chance to grab Woods.

A fourth-round pick for a question mark? The athleticism there tells us this isn’t that much of a gamble in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps Jelani Woods can be the starter for the Buccaneers that O.J. Howard never was. All it takes is a chance. We’re in if the value is right.

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