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2017 NFL Draft Profile: Alabama TE O.J. Howard

Howard, a freakish athlete, is a likely first rounder in next week’s NFL Draft. Here’s our profile on the ‘Bama tight end.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Four years, 114 receptions, 1,726 yards, 7 touchdowns.

This is what O.J. Howard’s career stat line reads on ESPN’s website. In four years, a 6-foot-6, 245-pound freak of a tight end reeled in only seven touchdowns. SEVEN!

In hindsight, Nick Saban was able to admit that the Alabama Crimson Tide offense wasn’t tailored enough to the talents of a guy like Howard. Three of Howard’s four years on the team, his OC was Lane Kiffin. Kiffin, as we all know, tends to tailor his offense around a single player. Unfortunately for Howard, he was never that player.

It was only in two national title games against Clemson where Howard was used essentially as a decoy that a large viewing audience was treated to how great he actually is.


The Numbers

Howard’s Measurables

Height Weight Arm Length Hand Size
Height Weight Arm Length Hand Size
6'6" 251 lbs. 33 3/4" 10"

Howard’s Combine

40-yd Dash Bench Press 3-Cone 20-yd Shuttle 60-yd Shuttle
40-yd Dash Bench Press 3-Cone 20-yd Shuttle 60-yd Shuttle
4.51 sec. 22 reps 6.85 sec. 4.16 sec. 11.46 sec.

The Athlete

Basically, a man his size should not be able to do what he does, certainly at the speed in which he does it. Which is fast, by the way. O.J. Howard is very fast. He’s the truck from Duel.

If one were to pinpoint his avatar in the league right now, he’d probably be a hybrid of Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen. As a downfield threat and a hoss in the run game, he’s the apotheosis of the modern day NFL tight end.

Howard bucked the temptation of declaring early after the 2016 National Championship because he felt he needed to improve his abilities as a blocker. This is something that’s going to be overlooked in his game going forward. We’ll always recognize the freakish talents of this massive tight end, but we won’t respect as heavily his desire to improve his gifts as a well-rounded player at the position.

Like Jonathan Allen, coming back for his senior year was a business decision and it seems to be paying major dividends going into the 2017 NFL Draft.

I guess the best place to start in showcasing Howard’s gifts as a receiver and blocker is the 2016 title game against Clemson:

Here, you can obviously watch the “big three” as I like to call them: The two touchdowns where he’s egregiously left wide open and the 60-yard scamper down the sideline that sets up the Tide’s game-clinching score.

What you will also see is a tight end who is entrusted to bunch with the five linemen and do the dirty work of a blocker in the run game. Alabama’s first touchdown on the night was a beautifully blocked run on 3rd and 1 that Derrick Henry took 51 yards for a touchdown.

Henry was going to get the first down based off the hat-on-a-hat blocking the linemen did at the point of attack, but it was Howard’s block on a Clemson safety that sprung him loose in the secondary. Howard violently meets the defender at the line of scrimmage, squares up, gets his hands inside and drives him back just enough to get Henry out in the open field.

Howard wanted to come back this past season to improve his blocking, yet plenty of it is on display in this game which he was voted Offensive MVP.

In this 2016 game against Texas A&M, Howard once again showcases his abilities as a run blocker, both at the line and downfield.

Notice how he takes on on the Aggie corner at the 00:20 mark when Jalen Hurts breaks out into the open field. That block alone probably got Hurts an extra five yards.

Watch how, at the one-minute mark, Howard is given the unenviable task of taking on all-world defensive end and projected first pick in the draft Myles Garrett. He gets out of his stance and immediately pushes into Garrett. He does just enough at the point of attack to free running back Damien Harris for 15 extra yards past the first down.

Projection

Heading into the draft, O.J. Howard won’t have to worry about slipping past the first round. At this point, I’d be shocked if he slipped past the top half of the first round. Even with a relatively small sample size in college, pro scouts knew the kind of player they were getting. He’s obviously proven his worth as a top-shelf pass catcher, but it’s his mettle as a blocker over the last two seasons that’s going to make him millions.

(Fun Fact: If Howard goes in the first round as he’s expected to do, that will give the Tide a first rounder at every position under Nick Saban except for one...quarterback.)