Overview: Tight End
School: Alabama Crimson Tide
O.J. Howard 2017 NFL Draft Profile
From high school, big things were projected out of big bodied tight end O.J. Howard. Howard joined Alabama in 2012 as the top tight end prospect in the country. He ranked as the 16th best overall prospect by Rivals.com, and was the second recruit in his home state of Alabama.
However, after four full seasons with the Crimson Tide, and 46 games played, it still feels like we have yet to see the peak of what Howard can be. For his career, he only has seven touchdown receptions. As a freshman, he only caught 14 passes, and followed it up with 17 receptions in his sophomore season.
During his junior year we started to get a glimpse into the talent of Howard. He took a big step up with 38 receptions, and a career high 602 receiving yards. That year was capped off by a five catch, 208 yard performance that brought in his lone two touchdowns of the season in the Crimson Tide’s National Championship victory over Clemson.
Many expected the lack of use from Howard, combined with the major performance on a national stage meant that Howard would be moving on to the NFL draft as a junior. However, Howard elected to stay for his senior season, and perfect his craft. This mainly came in a major step forward as a blocker in 2016.
Howard did see an increase in receptions (45), and touchdowns (3), but from freshman year until his graduation, the Crimson Tide continued to use him sparingly in the pass game, and instead focus on his ability to run block. While this obviously is not what some fans want to see, it showed his complete set of tools, and after a strong week at the senior bowl, he is one of the most polarizing players in the draft.
- ability to pull, and pick up defenders.
- blocking out of the back field in the run game.
- blocking in the slot for the screen game.
- can line up in the slot as a receiver.
- size, hands, and dynamic receiving ability.
- college receiving production.
- still needs to progress as an inline blocker.
- ability to create missed tackles in open field.
- struggles to create separation for himself in the passing game
NFL Comparison: Tyler Eifert
Teams with needs at position: Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, New York Giants, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets
Projection: Mid-First round
At the end of the day, Howard’s biggest strength is how complete of a player he is, and his weaknesses are all nit-picky and in small areas that could propel him into elite tight end territory in the NFL. It is not often that you see a player with his size, receiving ability and athleticism at tight end. When you add in his years of blocking, and ability to use his speed and athleticism to pull and make precision blocks, and to hold blocks down field, it is hard to find a better tight end prospect in recent memory.
His ceiling is to be compared to the likes of Rob Gronkowski as the elite in the game. But thanks to his blocking ability, and his red zone prowess, he has a very low floor. This makes him a sure fire first round pick, and some team may fall in love and nab him in the top ten.