2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Alabama TE O.J. Howard

We’re back again breaking down prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft, set to kick off on April 27th through the 29th. Our goal this season is to write reports on at least 150 players and hopefully, as many as 200. It will, of course, have a focus on Pittsburgh Steelers’ wants and needs but we will look big-picture too at the best players in this year’s draft.

If there’s a player you would like us to breakdown, let us know in the comments below.

#88 OJ Howard/TE Alabama: 6’6 251

The Good

– NFL size and length
– Reliable hands, ability to catch away from his frame
– Shows burst at the top of his route and ability to separate
– Physical run blocker, plays with nasty demeanor, drives his lower half and finishes his blocks
– Blocks well in space
– Played in pro style offense and asked to do a lot of grunt work he’ll be expected to do in the NFL
– Lot of experience as an in-line blocker, will ease the transition
– Productive in big game moments

The Bad

– Slow off the ball as an in-line blocker, causes him to lose leverage and ground
– Productivity wasn’t ideal, partly because of run-centric offense he played in
– Long speed is questionable


– 2016: 45 catches, 595 yards, 3 TDs
– Only one 100+ game in 2016 (National Championship game)
– 2015 National Title game: 5 catches, 208 yards, 2 TDs
– Two years as full-time starter, spot starts as freshman/sophomore (eight)
– Five-star prospect out of high school, top TE in the nation by almost every outlet

Tape Breakdown

Much like he was coming out of high school, Howard is the top tight end in this year’s class, which is a pretty strong group overall. Howard has everything you look for – receiving ability, blocking ability, and versatility.

If you want to be a tight end in the NFL, especially in Pittsburgh, you better be able to block. Howard excels at it and to me, more importantly, embraces the thought. Physical, nasty demeanor that coaches will adore.

It isn’t just tenacity either, it’s technique too. Watch him set his hips and create the run lane for the back.

He was underutilized as a receiver but that didn’t mean he was ineffective. And he showed up in big moments, including both National Championship games. Killed Clemson in both with over 100 yards and a score in each.

Howard benefited from playing in Alabama’s offense. As close to a pro-style attack you’ll find, he was used on a ton of common run schemes he’ll get in the NFL. Base blocking the end, split zone and kicking out the EMOL, all the stuff so many of these college tight ends and offenses aren’t asked to do. That’s going to give him a leg up on his NFL transition.

Now, his run blocking isn’t perfect. He is later out of his three point stance than a two point which causes him to struggle in his base blocks. Watch him in the clip below.

Something that can be corrected but working on his stance, maybe there’s something minor technically going on that’s hindering him, would be one of the first things I look for.

Tight end has become a need for the Steelers with their inability to trust Ladarius Green’s future with the club. It’s still dicey because Green could come back and be totally healthy for his career (unlikely, but possible, and I expect him to be on next year’s roster). That means a first round investment isn’t ideal. Which is fine, because Howard isn’t going to last until pick 30 anyway. He is undoubtedly the first tight end off the board and shouldn’t fall out of the top 20. Keep an eye on Tampa Bay at pick 19.

Projection: Top 20

Games Watched: vs Texas A&M, vs Auburn

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNate Peterman

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    Worth a 1st rounder

  • steelburg

    He is definitely worth a 1st round pick. I say if he falls to us pull the trigger on him. But I don’t expect him to be there that late. So I want to see 1-OLB, 2-ILB, 3-CB, 4-OLB.

  • Steelers12

    would yall take him or peppers if they fell to us

  • Spencer Krick

    He’s gonna be awesome for someone, pretty sure it won’t be for the Steelers.

  • falconsaftey43

    I’d take Howard. I’m not a fan of Peppers at all.

  • Spencer Krick

    I think you just take the BPA in round 2. Still have Vince to takeover at ILB if you can’t get Timmons back.

  • Steelers12

    just wondering why?

  • falconsaftey43

    Other than being a good athlete, I’m not sure he actually does anything exceptionally well on defense. He has potential because of his athletic ability, but I don’t see him do much on defense. Major project.

  • Alex Kozora

    That sums it up well, Spencer.

  • Spencer Krick

    Haven’t seen enough of Peppers just yet, but man, it would be hard not to pull the Trigger on Howard. Complete guy. Could be on your team for a decade+

  • Spencer Krick

    Thanks Alex! Great report as usual!

  • Brian Miller

    I am ALL in on Howard or Leggett…man they would be a great addition, and would never nred to leave the field!

  • Douglas Andrews

    What position do you play Peppers?

  • PaeperCup

    Checks a lot of the boxes, but I’m surprised that he’s not being rated lower on account of that lack of productivity. Yes, Alabama doesn’t use their TEs much, but how can we properly gauge his talent if he lacks the experience. Sounds like a blind pick.

  • Steelers12


  • Steelers12

    similar like the falcons do Deon Jones

  • Douglas Andrews

    a guy like Deon Buchanan from the Cardinals comes to mind as the type player Peppers might turn out like or better. What round is he projected to get drafted?

  • Steelers12

    mid to late 1st

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Man I would LOVE to get this guy in black n gold!!
    He could really help us in the areas that Green was supposed to (and DID although I think this kid is more talented) – specifically the Red Zone.
    Supposedly lotsa pass rushers in this years class so we could take this kid in rd1, get our OLB in rd2 and still be just fine!

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Hey, ‘burg!!! Just a different approach but since Brady isn’t going anywhere, why not take a pass rushing OLB but more importantly a pass rushing interior DLman?
    I know we have Hargrave but I didn’t exactly see him in Brady’s face in the AFCCG.
    Just a different approach……

  • popsiclesticks

    If he’s there at 30 I’d probably take him over an edge rusher (obvs the top top tier will be gone). He’s a top 10 pick that might drop because he played for this particular Alabama team.

  • popsiclesticks

    I go to one Michigan game a year and I’ve followed him since he was the only name around in the end days of the Hoke era. I don’t understand why everybody is so infatuated with this guy. He can miss tackles from so many positions and struggles covering college players, let alone NFL guys.

  • popsiclesticks

    Deion Jones is a smart, athletic ILB who excelled as an athletic guy in college. Peppers is a great on-paper athlete who is projected at ILB because he hasn’t been able to stick at any of the other spots UM tried him at.

  • popsiclesticks

    Really should be a top 10 pick. This guy is so good. He’s like a cross between Heath Miller and what everyone wanted Eric Ebron to be.

  • popsiclesticks

    I think that’s the only reason he’s even in the conversation at the back end of round 1. GT didn’t use Calvin Johnson much. Mariota didn’t run all that many NFL-style plays. A ton of these guys are heavy projections.

    I think you can argue that Davis, maybe Artie Burns and ever Ladarius Green out of college were somewhat blind picks. Heck, like half of first rounders are busts, no?

  • colingrant

    I miss college football. Listening to Lundquist and Danielson on the cutups above reminded me how awesome every October Saturday can be.

  • PaeperCup

    good points.

  • Steelers12

    i believe he can be a S/LB

  • J.

    Anyone thinking he is still on the board at 30 is living a dream.