The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected O.J. Howard 19th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.
When Howard fell this far it was quite a steal for the Bucs. Not many thought he would be there when they were on the clock, probably General Manager Jason Licht himself.
Howard was routinely selected inside the Top 12 in mock drafts this year, and he was considered a Top 5 talent by most.
The Buccaneers have added another stellar piece to their offense. This time it’s a 6’6” tight end to dominate the middle of the field.
This sounds all good and well, but most Fantasy owners are asking the question: Should I pick Howard in my draft? Does he belong in the conversation with Jordan Reed and Rob Gronkowski? Well, let’s look.
Should I Draft O.J. Howard
Howard attended the University of Alabama and played under Nick Saban. Alabama has routinely churned out quality NFL players and Howard should be no different. He is an exceptional athlete which was shown with his 40-yard dash time of 4.51 seconds and his other combine stats.
In total Howard, Howard had 114 catches for 1,726 yards and seven touchdowns in college. His college production was slightly underwhelming because Lane Kiffin, the offensive coordinator, didn’t always feature a tight end in his system.
The plus side to Howard is his size and athleticism. He has long arms that give him a tremendous catch radius. He is also a matchup nightmare. It will be hard for a defensive coordinator to place a linebacker or a safety on him and feel confident one-on-one.
The only knock on Howard’s game is that he lacks the strength to be a consistent in-line blocker. Lacking the strength to help the run game does not impact his Fantasy value.
Figuring out if a player if Fantasy relevant largely depends on the situation, and this situation couldn’t be much better.
The Buccaneers offense is led by 3rd-year quarterback Jameis Winston who has passed for over 4,000 yards in his first two NFL seasons. Winston is poised to jump into the elite category in 2017 with another strong season. The quarterback position concerning Howard is an A+.
The Buccaneers already had one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in Mike Evans. After adding DeSean Jackson this offseason and drafting Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin, the Tampa Bay receiving core is deep.
Having talented receivers on the outside takes pressure away from the middle of the field, which is primarily where Howard works out of.
The Buccaneers typically deploy a run-heavy offense. Head coach Dirk Koetter now has playmakers on the outside and the middle of the field to let Jameis Winston throw more. This means more pass attempts for Winston creating targets for Howard.
This situation couldn’t have fallen much better for Howard. He has a very good quarterback, and the Bucs have quality receivers on the outside to take attention away from the middle of the field.
The one drawback to Howard’s situation is the impending competition, Cameron Brate. Brate put together a quietly good year in which he caught 57 passes for 660 yards and eight touchdowns.
Even with Brate as the incumbent, I expect Howard to take the starting role from day one. He wasn’t drafted in the first round to just sit and watch. He was drafted to make an impact on day one.
So, should I draft him?
For the reasons listed above, I absolutely think O.J. Howard should be drafted for the 2017 Fantasy season. He shouldn’t be drafted early because he isn’t on the level of Gronk or Jordan Reed just yet. However, if he produces stats anywhere near what Brate put up last year, he’s an absolute steal. Winston to Howard will be a connection we hear all season long. Therefore, O.J. Howard should be owned in your 2017 Fantasy football league.
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