The New York Jets must incorporate a tight end in their new offense. Should they be considering O.J. Howard with their first-round selection?
Jeff Cumberland, Kellen Winslow Jr., Zach Sudfeld, Jace Amaro and Kellen Davis. Those are the five tight ends the New York Jets have featured in their offense since the departure of Dustin Keller. When you look at that group of guys, it’s really no wonder why Gang Green fails to convert in the red zone. You need a respectable big body to put points on the board. None of those players are respectable.
Look at what the New England Patriots do. They have a freak of nature in Rob Gronkowski, yet they have more than one tight end who poses a threat. You can double team ‘Gronk’ all you want, but Martellus Bennett would have hurt you. In 2017, Dwayne Allen will be that partner in crime. The Jets, on the other hand, have no pulse at the position.
This is where Alabama standout O.J. Howard comes into play. His numbers may not look impressive, however, they are when you consider the conference he plays in. The Crimson Tide are also a run-first team and you only play 15 games per year (max.) at the college level. Howard finished 2016 with 45 catches for 595 yards and three touchdowns. He concluded his Alabama career with 114 receptions for 1,726 yards and seven touchdowns.
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With Brandon Marshall no longer on the roster and an uncommitted run game, he could be a top-three option in John Morton’s system. New York plans on running a version of the west coast offense which consists of simple routes and quick passes. Howard would have an easy time learning the playbook and he’d be the No. 1 tight end on the depth chart. Whoever starts at quarterback could use him as a security blanket as well.
A youngster will most likely be the man under center for the Jets in 2017. Whether it’s Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg or a new face, he has to have a tight end to comfortably throw to. A guy like Howard would help the quarterback’s confidence, move the chains and keep defenses honest. New York could benefit from his blocking ability too. He earned the highest run-blocking grade in 2016 on Pro Football Focus and he would be a huge help to Ben Ijalana/Brandon Shell in pass protection.
The only question is if it’s worth it. The Jets are in a position at sixth overall where they’ll have a variety of options. They have two safeties in Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker who could be on the board, cornerback Marshon Lattimore, running back Leonard Fournette and two of the top three quarterbacks. If New York chooses to pass on those guys, Howard could be the pick.
As long as they don’t sign a free agent, this is well within the realm of possibility. Gang Green should definitely continue searching the market, though. Jared Cook, Gavin Escobar, and Luke Willson highlight the most appealing tight ends looking for homes in 2017. It may not be smart on paper for the Jets to take Howard, but you can’t rule it out. He had too great of a 2017 NFL Combine to not receive top-10 consideration.