Buffalo Bills: OJ Howard a Sensible Pick in 2017 NFL Draft

Sep 21, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Donald Brown (34) runs with the ball as Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams (95) pursues during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Chargers beat the Bills 22-10. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 21, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Donald Brown (34) runs with the ball as Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams (95) pursues during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Chargers beat the Bills 22-10. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports /

The Buffalo Bills have the 10th pick in this year’s NFL draft and using it on OJ Howard would immediately boost their passing game.

If you look around at everyone’s mock drafts lately, pretty much everyone has the Buffalo Bills selecting either a defensive back or a wide receiver. Both of those are very needy positions, but there’s one pick that would benefit the team the most right out of the gate — OJ Howard.

Coming from Alabama, Howard is no doubt the highest-ranked tight end in this year’s draft. That should speak numbers for teams looking to upgrade their receiving group — which includes wide receivers and tight ends — especially considering he was widely underutilized in Alabama’s offense that focused on its run-game.

Before we get into my take on the prospect, let’s take a quick look at how his stats turned out last season and how he performed at the Combine:

2016 Stats: 45 receptions, 595 yards, 3 touchdowns

Combine Results: 40-yard dash (4.51 seconds), bench press (22 reps), vertical jump (30 inches), broad jump (121 inches), three-cone drill (6.85 seconds)

OJ Howard brings multiple skill sets to the NFL and it’s everything the Buffalo Bills are looking for this offseason. With his size, speed and ability to make plays, Howard will be a quarterback’s best friend at the next level. Listed at 6’6”, 250 pounds, he has the build of a Rob Gronkowski/Jimmy Graham and could possibly be more of a threat than either.

Of course, Gronk is always hit with injuries and Graham has struggled to stay consistent over his career.

When looking at Howard’s strengths, CBS Sports had this to say:

"At a shade under 6-feet-6 and 251 pounds, Howard looks more like a power forward than a traditional NFL tight end. He shows quickness and balance in gaining a clean release off the line of scrimmage, slipping by the jabs from defenders because of his body control and fluid athleticism. Howard accelerates smoothly, quickly pulling away from defenders tasked with covering him and is a reliable “hands” catcher, extending and plucking outside of his frame with ease and tracking the ball well over his shoulder. Howard possesses the vision, agility and acceleration to continue the damage after the catch at the next level. Towering over virtually all of the defenders asked to cover him, Howard has learned to use his size to his advantage, lowering his shoulders into would-be tacklers and sprawling his legs in an attempt to keep his knees from touching the turf. Howard shows good timing and body control when leaping for high passes. Howard showed considerable improvement as blocker in 2016, demonstrating greater effort and upper body strength. He possesses the length and strength to lock-out defenders, turning and sealing them to create lanes for teammates."

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As for his weaknesses, NFL.com set the record straight:

"Will need more muscle and mass to be an in-line blocker as a pro. Appears passive. Doesn’t have the field demeanor of most Alabama players. Needs better hand strength to sustain his blocks. Can do better job of working feet into position after contact. Needs urgency in his routes to tilt defenders and get them guessing. Needs to show more elusiveness after the catch. Saw playing time diminish from junior to senior season. Explosive talent who doesn’t make enough explosive plays. Scheme creates some wide-open deep-ball catches at time. Scouts question his competitive nature."

There are a lot of things that could hold an NFL team back from drafting OJ Howard. Luckily for the Buffalo Bills, the main thing holding other teams back is his blocking ability. With Charles Clay still in town, the Bills already have one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. Because of that, Buffalo won’t really rely on Howard’s ability to block.

That should work in Howard’s favor, noting that the focus would solely be on getting him the ball through the air — his specialty.

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One thing I really like about Howard is his playmaking ability. Take the past 2 championship games for example. Pinned against the Clemson Tigers both games, Howard managed to combine for 9 catches, 314 yards and 3 touchdowns. In his freshman year, he averaged 19.2 yards per catch. His junior season saw 38 catches for 602 yards and his senior season saw 45 catches, 595 yards and 3 touchdowns.

To make everything that much more worth it, his blocking ability will improve and I can tell because he has shown signs of excellent blocking in the past. In case you don’t believe me, take a look at these — provided by FanRagSports:

At this point, I would almost be more happy with the Buffalo Bills drafting OJ Howard over a wide receiver. Not only will he bring just as much production through the air, but the Bills can also find a WR with a later draft pick.

If Howard is available at No. 10, I say grab him. He could be the piece to balance this offense out completely and take Tyrod Taylor to the next level — don’t forget, he loves to throw to the tight end. Charles Clay was the team’s leading target last season.

Next: Buffalo Bills' Offensive Line Looking Stronger Than Ever

What are your thoughts on the Buffalo Bills drafting OJ Howard? Leave your comments below!