The Tampa Bay Buccaneers thought they had a steal with O.J. Howard in the first round of last year’s draft, as the tight end dropped all the way to number 19 after widely being projected to go in the top twelve.
As a rookie, Howard put up 26 catches for 432 yards and six touchdowns. Solid, but not dominant production for a veteran tight end. Excellent production for rookie tight ends, who generally don’t produce much. And yet, for some reason, Pro Football Focus ranks Howard as the worst rookie among all 2017 first-round picks. Weird.
A look at how every first round draft pick graded as a rookie pic.twitter.com/U4gZ6c9TiC— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 9, 2018
Part of this is probably down to his blocking. Howard got a lot of playing time as a blocker, and he did well enough to knock Luke Stocker off the roster by the end of the season. But he wasn’t dominant, either, and it took him a while to get going. The same is true for his performance as a receiver: he didn’t really start producing until the middle of the season.
Still, though, the worst grade among first-round picks? That’s a bit much. Pro Football Focus’ ways are, of course, difficult to understand: their grades are still fairly subjective, and the correlation of those grades with actual on-field results remains unknown.
Whatever, though. What matters isn’t how well Howard did as a rookie, which in terms of production makes him one of the best rookie tight ends in recent memory, but how well he’ll do going forward. And there’s no reason to believe he’ll struggle there.