The Bengals will have plenty of interesting options with the ninth pick of the draft. One of those options could be Alabama tight end, O.J. Howard. Even though it doesn’t sound like the most exciting pick, O.J. is an electric, athletic freak. If the Bengals stick to their ‘best player available’ philosophy, he could (and should) be one of their top targets.
O.J. Howard is a 6′ 6″ tight end for the Crimson Tide who really shined throughout all the offseason workouts. Howard ran a 4.5 forty at the NFL Combine and proved to be the most impressive athlete at the Senior Bowl, dominating over the week of practices. He was a third team All-American and second team All-SEC performer as a senior for Alabama, so the resume is there to go along with his athletic ability. Let’s look at the positives and negatives in Howard’s game and look at how he fits the Bengals’ offense.
The Positives and Negatives
Howard’s speed and athleticism are obvious, with his sub 5.0 forty time. However, he is much more than just a straight line runner. Howard is strong at the point of attack and is a tremendous blocker. His speed makes him a matchup nightmare for linebackers and his size and strength makes him a tough cover for opposing safeties as well.
He showed good hands and natural catching ability when he was thrown the ball at Alabama as well as offseason workouts. Howard is a dangerous weapon and complete offensive player because he offers all the ability of a wide receiver to go along with the blocking skills of an offensive lineman.
As far as negative’s go, there honestly isn’t a whole lot of negative to his game. The only true downside when scouting Howard is he didn’t get a lot of opportunity in Alabama’s offense his senior year. The talent was shown in flashes. However, there isn’t a lot of tape to show how consistent he can be.
How he fits
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The Bengals already have an excellent tight end with Tyler Eifert. However, Eifert has had trouble staying on the field due to injuries and he is entering his contract year. In that regard, Howard could make plenty of sense with the ninth pick.
If a scenario arises where the Bengals draft O.J. and Eifert returns completely healthy, then, Ken Zampese would have the option of running some two tight end sets that could create some serious confusion for opposing defenses. I’m also very confident that the Bengals will select a running back at some point in the draft. With a young offensive line, Howard would be a major asset for the run blocking schemes as well.
At first glance, the thought of drafting a tight end with the ninth pick sounds like an idea to make any fan throw their TV out of the window. But, O.J. Howard is a rare, All-Pro caliber talent that doesn’t come along every day. That is exactly the kind of talent the Bengals need in the top ten.