In a deep TE class, the leader of the group is Alabama’s O.J. Howard. For a position that seemed to be on the decline this past season in the NFL, Howard will be a hot commodity on draft day as he brings everything to the table. A mismatch in the passing game with his pass catching skills and size coupled with his refined blocking ability, Howard will be a great luxury pick for a team in the bottom half of the 1st round and serves as the best TE prospect we’ve seen come out in a couple of years.
Name: O.J. Howard
Draft Grade: 1st Round
Positives: Towering height. A proportioned frame. Good arm length and big hands. A good height to weight ratio. Broad shoulders. Strong arms. Adequate lower-body bulk. Has gotten stronger every year and his play strength has improved tremendously. Good open field speed and very good foot quickness. Reaches top speed quickly and tears up yardage in big chunks with short steps. Speed to threaten the seam. Smooth with the ability to easily turn his hips and weave through the open field. Shows some toughness after the catch and will work for extra yards. Consistent and reliable hands. Has quick hands and good hand-eye coordination. A big catch radius. Can go up and get the ball but rarely has to leave his feet. A big red-zone threat. A work in progress as a route-runner but has improved with time. Was lined up all over the field in both passing and blocking assignments and challenged with a diverse workload. Has learned to embrace the dirty work of his position. A reliable and consistent blocker in all phases. Does a good job of squaring up and using his arms to hold blocks. When he finishes a block doesn’t loaf and actively looks for more work. Will do anything he can in pass protection to keep his quarterback clean. Mental errors were rare and does what is expected of him. Known as a tremendous teammate with great personal and football character. Could have left early but made the commitment to stay and improve. A hard worker. Mature. Reliable. Tough. Has remained remarkably healthy over four years.
Negatives: A relatively lean and narrow lower body with limited growth potential. Lacks the ideal lower body bulk and pad level to be a knock-back blocker in the run game. Has some hip stiffness that prevents him from being able to drop his hips and make explosive breaks which limits his potential after the catch. More of a limited straight line athlete. Not put in the position to make many contested or jump-ball catches so that aspect of his game is difficult to evaluate.
Outlook: O.J. Howard is this year’s most impressive all-around tight end prospect. Howard brings ideal size, good hands, quick feet, and the ability to be counted on as a blocker which is a very rare package. Howard spent a good portion of his college career blocking which limited opportunities in the passing game but was a blessing in disguise as he’ll come into the NFL more ready to contribute. As Howard matures he could become a tight end that doesn’t have to come off the field. Although Howard is the best prospect at his position in this draft he lacks dynamic lateral athleticism and needs to continue getting stronger, especially in the lower body. O.J. Howard’s value is in the back half of the first round.