OJ Howard was one of the best prospects coming into the draft and he was a player who was criminally underused at Alabama.
Many had Howard as a top ten pick, but due to teams preferring to build defences, and teams reaching to draft quarterbacks, Howard slipped to the bottom end of the first round. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and under-pressure GM Jason Licht must have been laughing as Howard is the type of player who can completely transform their offence.
The Buccaneers had a couple of needs along both the offensive line and on the defensive line, but Howard was simply too good for them to not draft. Cameron Brate did an excellent job at tight end last year, and he should still have some role in Dirk Koetter’s offence, but Howard is twice the player, and could take this offence to the next level.
The Buccaneers offence was middle of the road last year, but the biggest problem they had, was that they were incapable of consistently making big plays. They ranked 30th in offensive big play percentage, with only the Vikings and the Rams ranking below them. OJ Howard can be a deep threat over the middle, and he will simply bowl people over in the open field due to his strength, speed and raw power.
Schematically, Howard is an excellent fit in Koetter’s offence, and he should see a lot of time on the field. Per SharpFootballStats.com, the Buccaneers utilised sets with two tight ends and two wideouts more than 30 NFL teams, with only the Philadelphia Eagles using the so called ‘twelve’ personnel more often. Howard will not necessarily displace Brate, as Dirk Koetter often used two tight end sets anyway, but there is no doubt that he will become the more dynamic player for Tampa Bay.
Howard will not only become a matchup nightmare as a receiver, but he is an excellent blocker in the open field, which will help out Doug Martin and Jeremy McNichols. Tampa Bay were 29th in yards per rush attempt, and 29th in big plays coming from the running game, and Howard could change this from day one. Tampa Bay do not have the personnel to be a team that consistently averages five yards a carry, so they will need to rely on big plays instead. Howard’s ability as an open field blocker should generate some touchdowns over the course of the season.
The Buccaneers have the potential to be deadly with their twelve personnel, as they have playmakers at every position. DeSean Jackson running go routes, Mike Evans dominating the sideline, and tight ends Cameron Brate and OJ Howard working underneath is quite a scary thought. When you add in the fact that they have one of the better receiving backs in Charles Sims, it makes the Tampa Bay twelve personnel look unstoppable on the surface.
Tampa Bay had other needs, but they have three more years of Jameis Winston on a rookie contract, and they now have five years of OJ Howard on a rookie deal. These two could most certainly evolve into the best QB-Receiver duo in the league, and they seem to be a perfect fit together. Tampa Bay now have a lot of cap flexibility, and they are contenders for the next couple of years as long as they do not get their free agency signings wrong.