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Fantasy Focus: O.J. Howard

Posted Jul 17, 2017

Howard could be a high pick in many fantasy drafts, despite that fact that he hasn't taken a snap in the NFL yet.

The Buccaneers had lofty goals for their performance in the red zone last year. With a few new faces joining Tampa Bay’s offense, that goal has been pushed up even higher for 2017; Head Coach Dirk Koetter hopes the Buccaneers will score touchdowns on 60 percent of their trips to the red zone this season. If they are able to reach that goal largely depends on the performance of the team’s first-round draft pick, O.J. Howard.

WATCH: HIGHLIGHTS FROM HOWARD'S OFFSEASON

Howard is stepping into a unique position with the Buccaneers. As a first-round draft pick, he’s expected to contribute as a rookie. But with a productive tight end already on the Bucs’ roster, Howard won’t be asked to play every snap or carry an excessive workload during his first NFL season.

What type of impact will that have on your fantasy roster? It could go a few different ways. The logical way of thinking would be to avoid Howard in the early rounds because the Buccaneers have so many red zone weapons already. Mike Evans was No. 2 in the NFL for touchdown receptions among wide receiver while Cam Brate was tied for the league-lead in touchdown catches for tight ends. Plus - the Buccaneers brought in DeSean Jackson, potentially limiting Howard’s touches even more.

Another strategy would be to secure Howard sooner rather than later, hoping that he will be the beneficiary of double-teams aimed towards Evans, Brate and Jackson. At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Howard is not a player opponents want to single-cover in the red zone.

READ: A DOZEN DEBATES - SAFETY DEPTH CHART

Here’s a look at how ESPN projects Howard’s rookie season to shake out:

Average Draft Position (ESPN): 129
Position (TE) Draft Ranking: 13
2016 Fantasy Point Production (Standard Format): n/a
2016 Position (TE) Rank: n/a

Both of the Buccaneers’ tight ends are considered among the NFL’s best fantasy players at their respective positions. Howard is ESPN’s No. 13 fantasy tight end while Brate is listed at No. 17. Both players are expected to see a significant number of snaps, regardless of who the “starter” is.

If spring workouts are any indication, fantasy owners would be wise to keep an eye on both Brate and Howard. Where they differ – Brate has proven what he’s capable of and fantasy owners know what to expect. Owners can draft him knowing what they’ll be getting. Howard has yet to take an NFL snap. For an owner in the position to take a chance on a rookie, Howard could be a productive option.