OJ Howard will not make anyone forget Ozzie Newsome. He may not even make people forget about Rob Gronkowski. On the other hand, he could be the next Travis Kelce or Jordan Reed. The former Alabama star is moving up draft boards, with some thinking he could be a top 15-draft pick. One, in particular, has Howard setting history on draft night. According to Todd McShay of ESPN.com, the Jacksonville Jaguars will choose Howard with the fourth pick in the NFL Draft. If such an “event” happens, it will mark the first time in the common draft era that a tight end is drafted so high.
As Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com explains in his story from Wednesday, McShay said he considered running back Leonard Fournette at No. 4 but was just so impressed with what he has seen from Howard on film and throughout the pre-draft process.
“It was a tough call, to be honest with you,” McShay said. “It might be a stretch to have a tight end go No. 4. We have only had two tight ends go in the first round the last six drafts. Ultimately when you look at this year’s class, I think from a character standpoint, the maturing that he went through, the ability to stretch the field vertically, the ability to create after the catch, and then the improvement he’s undergone as a run blocker and even in pass protection at times, I think O.J. Howard is one of the most complete prospects.”
Complete is one thing, a game changer is another. Howard showed he could be a difference-maker, especially in the Crimson Tide’s national title win over Clemson two years ago. He is also a solid blocker and can become a red zone threat. The Jacksonville Jaguars have too many holes to fill to take a chance on a tight end that high.
There is a strong possibility the Jacksonville Jaguars will take a tight end in this draft, possibly even trading back in the first round to pick one, as some pundits have suggested. Howard is the seventh overall prospect on cbssports.com’s big board.
Despite obvious physical tools – including an imposing frame, rare straight-line speed, and soft hands – “Howard was inexplicably ignored as a receiver throughout much of his career at Alabama. His career numbers (114 receptions for 1,726 yards and seven touchdowns) hardly suggest that he will be a first-round pick, though he almost certainly will be. His production would be even less impressive if his gaudy totals against Clemson in the past two national championship games were out of the equation. In those two contests – the only two over Howard’s career in which he eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark – Howard was nearly unstoppable, hauling in a combined nine passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns.”
If the Jacksonville Jaguars go searching for a tight end and it is not Howard, there are other prospects to choose. Here are three other players the team might consider.
David Njoku, Miami – The Hurricanes have a habit of churning out top tight end prospects. As a result, Njoku joins that list. According to scouting reports, he has an explosive release and instantly accelerates to top speed in his routes. Furthermore, he catches the ball in stride with nimble feet and dynamic skills after the catch. At the same time, Njoku has powerful strides to run over defenders, maintain his balance and pull away.
Jake Butt, Michigan – Injuries are a concern, but he is a dependable pass catcher and could be a decent blocker. Overall, I see him in the Kelce role. At 6-foot-5 and 246 pounds, Jake Butt would make a nice red zone target. For instance, Butt could create matchup problems with linebackers across the middle. Similarly, he compares to Tyler Eifert of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas – He may win the award for the best name in the draft. Sprinkle played against some of the best teams in the country. According to his scouting report, he looks like the part of an “old school” tight end. Sprinkle has broad shoulders, a trim middle and very long, well-built limbs. His physique shows well for blocking at the line of scrimmage. Jeremy Sprinkle uses his length and a powerful base to not only corral but also actually control opponents. As a result, he has even pancaked the occasional defender.