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2017 NFL Draft Reaction: O.J. Howard Goes to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

O.J. Howard was drafted 19th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, providing another weapon for quarterback Jameis Winston to utilize in a revamped Tampa Bay offense.

Despite unimpressive collegiate numbers playing in Alabama’s run-heavy scheme, Howard still managed to find himself drafted in the first round.

From a fantasy perspective, it’s difficult to put much faith in rookie tight ends. However, Howard should find himself immediately contending for a large percentage of the team’s snaps and should be able to carve out a role in the passing game. The Buccaneers tight ends saw a 20.2 percent target market share.

We’ll get to more of that in a minute. But first, we take a comprehensive look at the new Tampa Bay TE, O.J. Howard.

O.J. Howard, Alabama, 6-6, 251

Final Age: 22.1   Vert: 30.0   Cone: 6.85

Raw and Market Share College Production

YearRecYdsAvgTDmsYDmsTD
20131426919.22.083.067
20141726015.30.067.000
20153860215.82.177.091
20164559513.23.189.115
Career1141,72615.17.126.064

From 2017 NFL Draft Prospect: O.J. Howard:

“It’s not unusual to see tight ends fail to post monstrous market shares, but in 2016, Howard just wasn’t that involved in Alabama’s passing game. Jake Butt and Evan Engram dwarf Howard’s production, especially in regards to finding the end zone.”

While Howard’s production at Alabama isn’t anything to write home about, he exemplifies the type of TE prospect that GMs salivate over.

OJ Howard Box-Score-Scout Buccaneers

Drafted 19th overall, Howard draws some favorable comparisons despite his limited collegiate production. Greg Olsen was also minimally used at Miami but has gone on to have a prolific career. Tyler Eifert is another recent first-round pick, and Jared Cook and Vance McDonald have long been RotoViz favorites. Howard draws some solid comps that have gone on to have varying degrees of success. While the lack of touchdown market share of Howard is a bit alarming for a guy of his size, Howard’s 4.51 speed should allow him to gain plenty of separation and develop into a red zone weapon.

Howard, our top tight end prospect, ranked fifth overall according to the RotoViz Scouting Index. The RotoViz writers agreed, with Howard taking the top spot in our pre-draft rookie consensus rankings.

While our subjective feelings on Howard have him ranked at the top, it was interesting to note that Phil Watkins’ TE Success Model placed Howard with the fourth-best probability of being a long-term starter. Jonnu Smith (78 percent), Bucky Hodges (71 percent), and David Njoku (69 percent) all edged out Howard (61 percent) in Watkins’ model estimating the probability of a tight end prospect becoming a long-term NFL starter.

Those are still favorable odds for Howard, who has a better pre-draft projection than Zach Ertz (58 percent) and Eifert (57 percent), two players who have gone on to experience success in the league.

Player Outlook

While other TEs may have outperformed Howard during his days at Alabama, Howard brings the total package as an adept receiver and physical blocker, while possessing sublime athleticism.

Given the early draft capital the Buccaneers used on Howard, he enters a special subset of first-round TEs in today’s pass-happy league. Eifert (21st overall 2013) and Eric Ebron (10th overall 2014) are the only other TEs drafted in the first round in the last five years. When Eifert hasn’t been injured (2014), he’s gone on to have the TE26, TE6, and TE25 seasons in PPR scoring. Ebron has also made a name for himself, finishing as the TE40, TE13, and TE16. While both Cincinnati and Detroit spent heavy draft capital on the TE position, it’s worth noting it hasn’t translated to a sure-fire top-12 TE finish for their respective prospects.

It’s been discussed many times, but TEs typically take time to develop. Howard’s versatility will immediately provide him playing time on both running and passing downs, and it looks like early drafters are banking against history with Howard becoming an immediate fantasy asset. His MFL10 ADP is currently the TE15, being drafted in the 12th round. That’s a hefty price considering just four rookie TEs have surpassed 600 receiving yards since the year 2000.

Dynasty owners are also on board with Howard’s long-term outlook, and he’s being drafted as the TE8 in the eighth round according to the Dynasty ADP App. While the redraft price seems a bit lofty, I can fully understand the dynasty valuation if Howard were to reach the top of his range of outcomes. His Dynasty League Football ADP in rookie drafts is the 1.09. I’d be comfortable going as high as the 1.06 given the pairing with Winston and potential they could have over the long run.

Team Outlook

Cameron Brate was second on the team in receptions (57) and touchdowns (8) en route to a TE7 finish. The addition of Howard is obviously a huge blow to Brate’s dynasty value, who’s on a one-year, $690,000 contract that expires after this season. Howard should eventually take over Brate’s TE1 duties, and it wouldn’t be surprising if we start to see Howard out snap Brate as the season progresses. In fact, it wouldn’t be that surprising to see Howard usurp the TE1 role from day one, given the high draft capital they just spent.

The addition of Howard subsequently raises the value of Jameis Winston, who’s now paired with another dynamic playmaker. It could potentially lower the touchdown ceiling of Mike Evans, but with how heavily Winston looks his way, he almost seems insulated to any type of drastic depreciation. Given the uncertainty at the running back position, the best way to invest in this Tampa Bay offense may be through the passing attack. The Buccaneers had the ninth-most red zone trips per game last year (3.4), and Brate had the fourth-most red zone targets among all TEs. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Brate’s red zone looks transfer to Howard as he becomes the fruitful recipient of touchdown opportunity.

Conclusion

History isn’t on Howard’s side to provide immediate receiving production as a rookie TE. That said, the Buccaneers have one of the league’s most up-and-coming offenses. Howard has a chance to quickly rise in the target pecking order to second on the team, with the potential to be a high-end TE2. Week-to-week volatility should be expected for the rookie, which makes him a tough suggestion for typical redraft leagues, but if his value maintains in the 12th round in best ball leagues, he could provide some usable weeks for fantasy owners. He is a heavy buy in dynasty leagues and arguably moves into the highly touted “top-six” rookie draft picks.

Find all our 2017 NFL Draft reaction content here.

Additional Research

Tight Ends – Tight End Prospecting – Phil Watkins built a TE success model that is exceptionally good at identifying busts. It’s also useful for finding players that are likely to have NFL success. Watkins analyzes the top 14 TE prospects in this year’s draft and provides odds of success for each.

See for yourself…

 

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