Sleeper Alert: O.J. Howard

Tight end Cameron Brate had a great breakout season last year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but his reign could potentially be a short one with rookie O.J. Howard waiting in the wings.

O.J. Howard, the 6’6″ 240-pound Crimson Tide phenom, was the first round draft pick (19th overall) of the Bucs during the 2017 draft and for good reason. Often considered as underutilized at the University of Alabama, Howard managed 38 receptions for 602 yards and two touchdowns during his junior year. Howard also earned the Offensive MVP after Alabama’s victory over Clemson in the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship in which he notched five receptions for 208 yards and two touchdowns.

Accolades aside, Howard is a big target that can move and is just what quarterback Jameis Winston needs. For all intents and purposes, Winston gets in trouble a lot. Did you here what we just said? A lot! With the Tampa Bay running backs ailing over the past couple of seasons, Winston hasn’t exactly had a blanket receiver that he can depend on for check downs or short underneath routes. Until now, Cameron Brate has done his best to fill that role.

Cameron Brate is a serviceable tight end at best. He’s a big target that can catch the ball, but that’s about it. The only chemistry that he and Jameis Winston have is that they’ve built trust in one another during the 2016 NFL season. Aside from proving to be a nice red zone target that can detract defenders away from Mike Evans as a second option, Brate offers little upside leading up to the end zone. To put it simply, he’s a catch and fall type of tight end.

O.J. Howard looks like everything that we hoped the often-injured Ladarius Green would be in both San Diego and Pittsburgh. Howard’s a big framed guy that moves like a gazelle and can create yards after the catch. His biggest problem to date is that he sits in the pecking order not only behind Cameron Brate at the tight end position, but also wide receivers Mike Evans, Desean Jackson, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries.

Howard will likely need a Cameron Brate injury (knock on wood) or a show-and-prove moment to break into the lineup beyond simple blocking duties. For now, we see Howard as a nice draft pick in the later rounds as a backup tight end. Normally, it wouldn’t be advised to draft a player that offers very little in the way of immediate returns, but the upside is huge and any injury to the Tampa Bay wide receiving corps could lend an opening to O.J. Howard.

Don’t be afraid to take a flier on O.J. Howard and wait patiently for his soon-to-come breakout game.