It looks like the Buccaneers found some great refreshment with their 19th draft pick when they selected Alabama tight end O.J. Howard.
The 6’6″, 251-lb. Howard is described by nfl.com as an “exceptionally gifted athlete” nfl.com. Howard can put a lot of pressure on a defense. He has speed and acceleration and can create separation. He can catch balls that are badly thrown or contested and can line up anywhere on the field. He’s a huge target and also proficient at blocking. Whew!
Because he’s a total package, Howard was expected to be the rare tight end who went in the first 10 picks. The Bucs were a little surprised that he lasted until number 19 and were considering a trade up to get him. But they decided to see how it went, and their patience paid off. GM Jason Licht said, “We’re beyond excited about him.” He added that, “it was a little bit of a pipe dream…I have a feeling a lot of teams were probably after him.”
In fact, the Bucs got pretty nervous between the 11th and 18th picks, expecting Howard to get plucked from their grasp any time. There was a collective sigh of relief after the Titans made the 18th pick. Licht explained how the Buccaneers determine which players to focus on. “We don’t set our boards based on the mocks,” he said. “Before the draft we have a lot of meetings where we say, ‘Which players have to be there you’re not even going to consider trading back? Which players would you consider moving up for?’…He was obviously one guy that we weren’t going to trade back for” www.buccaneers.com.
Howard was a big playmaker at Alabama, especially in 2015, where he caught 38 passes for 602 yards. In the 2016 national championship game, he was named Offensive MVP, with 208 receiving yards and two touchdowns on five catches. Even so, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter thinks he was underused by the Tide.
But not now, since, along with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Cameron Brate, the Bucs have some O.J. to pour on the yardage.