This was a shocking selection. Not because Howard wasn’t worth the pick, but because no one expected him to fall this far. In fact, it’s still unclear how he dropped all the way to number 19, as he was widely considered to be a top ten pick before today.
Howard is the best and most all-round tight end in this draft, adept both as a blocker and as a receiver. He blew away all of his competition at the NFL Scouting Combine, posting an amazing 4.51-second 40-yard dash at 6’6”, 251 lbs.
SB Nation’s Dan Kadar ranked him as the 12th-best player in the draft.
The one concern with Howard is a lack of production as a receiver, though the blame for that is usually laid at offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s feet. He still had 45 catches for 595 yards and three touchdowns in his final season, though, and head coach Nick Saban has repeatedly said that they didn’t do enough to use his talents.
Howard should step in immediately as a starter, with Cameron Brate relegated to a more niche role. He gives Jameis Winston a reliable, explosive target down the middle of the field, and someone who can boost the running game with his blocking.
With this pick, the Bucs still have a number of needs to fill, though none of them are particularly pressing. The team does need to walk out of this draft with added depth and perhaps even starters at running back and safety, while defensive end and cornerback should be relatively high on the list of priorities, too.
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Buccaneers draft picks
Round 1: pick 19 (19th overall) - TE O.J. Howard, Alabama
Round 2: pick 18 (50th overall)
Round 3: pick 20 (84th overall)
Round 4: pick 19 (125th overall)
Round 5: pick 18 (162nd overall)
Round 6: pick 20 (204th overall)
Round 7: pick 19 (237th overall)
2017 NFL Draft dates and times
Thursday, April 27 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Round 1 – 10 Minutes Per Pick)
Friday, April 28 – 7 p.m. ET (Round 2 – 7 Minutes, Round 3 – 5 Minutes Per Pick)
Saturday, April 29 – noon ET (Rounds 4-6 – 5 Minutes Per Pick, Round 7 - 4 Minutes Per Pick)