O.J. Howard is the real deal. Don’t let the numbers he produced in college be an indicator for what he can do at the next level. We’re talking about the best all around tight end prospect since maybe Rob Gronkowski.
Howard was a matchup nightmare at Alabama and he’ll be an even bigger one in the NFL. Or at least he will be if he goes to an offense that knows how to use his talents. (Tell me again Nick Saban why you didn’t build your offense around this guy?)
Let’s start with the physical attributes. Howard is 6-foot-5, 251 pounds, ran a 4.51 40-yard dash (2nd best among tight ends) and pumped out 22 reps on the bench (also 2nd best among TEs). He also posted the best time in both the 20-yard shuttle and 3 cone drill. What all this shows is that despite his size and strength, he has quick feet and amazing agility. He has top end speed to stretch the field but also the quickness to run routes underneath and gain separation from linebackers and safeties.
He is also a stout run blocker and looks to finish his blocks especially against smaller defensive backs. Per PFF, Howard’s run blocking has improved every season at Alabama and he graded out as their best run blocking tight end last year. Which would make sense for a guy who’s 6-foot-5 and can bench press 225 pounds 22 times.
Howard does have a few question marks but mostly they surround his run and pass blocking ability at the next level. Scouts are also a little worried if he’ll be able to live up to the hype in the NFL after being highly underused in Alabama (again Saban, why?).
But ignore all the haters. Howard is going to be an instant impact guy as soon as September comes and definitely deserves fantasy consideration. I’m going to start with him as a TE2 but depending where he ends up, I could even see him reaching TE1 status before a down of football has been played. Shocking, I know.
Howard’s College Stats
Best Fantasy Fits
- Cleveland Browns: I want to stress again that this is best fantasy fits so I don’t nessecarily care about if the move makes sense and/or there are better fits for Howard offensively. For instance, both the Panthers and the Titans would be great landing spots for Howard. However, both teams have well established tight ends—Greg Olsen and Delanie Walker respectively—who would significantly cut into Howard’s fantasy potential. With the Browns, much will rely on who’s their signal caller (obviously) but Hue Jackson knows how to use talented tight ends. Just look at what he did with Tyler Eifert in Cincinnati and you only need to look back to 2015 to see an All-Star fantasy season from a Browns’ tight end.
- New York Jets: The Jets are a natural fit for Howard because who else do they have catching the football? Brandon Marshall has left for the other New York team, leaving Quincy Enunwa and Eric Decker. And the Jets aren’t even sold on keeping Eric Decker! There will be plenty of targets to go around in the Jets’ offense as someone has to catch the football. Adding in a big body talent like Howard would give whomever is under center a comfort blanket and, in an offense devoid of receiving talent, a number one receiver.
- New Orleans Saints: I was going to put Buffalo here as they could use a real threat at tight end but it’s the team right after them that I like much better for Howard. We all know the Saints’ offense can put up points like they’re going out of style. And, in an under-the-radar move that probably no one remembers, the Saints traded away their number two receiver Brandin Cooks to the Patriots, so there’s again a handful of targets waiting for a big pair of hands to catch them. If we ignore season one of the failed Coby Fleener experiment (something I was very hyped on last year), tight ends have had wild success catching passes from Drew Brees. We all remember Jimmy Graham and what he became in New Orleans, but let’s not forget the Saints literally drowning Benjamin Watson in the fountain of youth and getting an 825 yard, 6 touchdown season from him. He was seventh among tight ends in terms of total fantasy points that year. Just imagine what Brees and Sean Payton could do with a talent like Howard.