Jason Licht Makes One Of His Best Draft Selections:
GM Jason Licht has been hit and miss, dead on, and way off in his drafts with Tampa. There’s no doubt that he has had some doozies, but at the same time, he’s had a few great picks as well. One of those selections, was in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Bucs drafted O.J. Howard, in the First Round with the 19th overall pick. Considered the best Tight End in the draft by most experts. Sporting a 6’5 5/8, 251 lb frame, and running a 4.51/ 40 at the NFL Combine, Howard’s stats at Alabama were nothing to get excited about. When asked about Howard’s role in the offense after the 2016 season, Saban said,
“O.J., quite honestly, should have been more involved all year long.”
Howard’s best game in College came at the 2016 National Championship game (for the 2015 season) against Clemson. He racked up 5 receptions for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Being named the Offensive MVP for the game, this was a direct indication of his potential. Thankfully, GM Jason Licht was paying attention. Why Saban wasn’t is a mystery. Howard finished his Alabama career with only 7 TDs in 4 regular seasons.
Howard Shows A Glimpse Of What’s To Come:
2017 – Rookie Year.
In Week 4, against the New York Giants, he recorded a 58-yard reception for the first touchdown of his career. In Week 7, against the Bills, he had a breakout game with six receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns. He was placed on injured reserve on December 20, 2017. He started the first 14 games his rookie season, finishing with 26 receptions for 432 yards and six touchdowns. Not too shabby for a rookie.
2018 – 2nd year.
In Week 2, against the Philadelphia Eagles, Howard recorded a 75-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick as part of a 96-yard performance in the victory. In Week 9, against the Carolina Panthers, he recorded two receiving touchdowns in the loss. On November 20, 2018, he was placed on injured reserve after suffering foot and ankle injuries in Week 11. He finished the season with 34 receptions for 565 yards and five touchdowns in ten games and eight starts. Once again, not bad numbers, and still long on potential, although, the injury bug appears to be way too friendly with the talented TE, after his second straight year ending up on the IR.
2019 – Year 3 – A New Coaching Staff, And Unlimited Potential.
Enter Head Coach Bruce Arians, and Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich, who had this to say about his young star TE.
“Man, I’ve never seen guys like that. It’s hard to be around guys that can do what O.J. can do. He’s very – there’s not a lot of those human beings walking around on earth. Trust me, because everybody is looking for him. Everybody is looking for the next O.J. Howard.” Leftwich went on to say, “He’s a young guy in this process, but what he can do being that big, being able to run it’s a matchup nightmare for defenses.”
It’s clear the new staff is enamored with the young star and what he can do in the new offense that they are installing in Tampa. In Howard’s first two years in the NFL, heading into his third, two things are abundantly very clear about the young rising star. First, that Howard’s potential is enormous, he’s a threat to break it open for a touchdown every time he touches the ball and Second, that he may be injury prone, and needs to play a full season to chase those thoughts away.
Robo Tight End and 2019.
It’s clear that O.J. Howard is one of the first of a new breed of Tight End in the NFL. A Physical Machine that is almost impossible to defend at the position. A streamlined weapon other teams Defenses have to account for, have to try and stop or be made to look silly in front of thousands. He’s that good, and more. Personally, I will have my fingers and toes crossed during the 2019 season hoping that he will not again end up on the IR. I think all Bucs fans want to see a complete season from Howard, how great would that be?