Many draft experts believe that this year's tight end class could be one of the best in recent years. The Buccaneers have been linked to both players expected to be drafted in the first round - Alabama's O.J. Howard and Miami's David Njoky. Which of the two would be the better fit in Tampa Bay? Buccaneers.com contributors Andrew Norton, Scott Smith and Joe Kania debate:Scott Smith: O.J. Howard
Some of the top shots of Alabama TE O.J. Howard.
I have slowly come around to the idea of the Buccaneers taking a tight end in the first round (in case Jason Licht decides to ask me). Dirk Koetter runs LOTS of plays out of the "12" personnel grouping (that is, one back, two wideouts, two tight ends), so drafting a tight end high does not mean that the rising Cam Brate will be phased out. Rather, it would open up a lot of new possibilities on offense, particularly if the new tight end is of that hard-to-find type who excels at both blocking and catching passes. All of which is to say, I don't think you can go wrong with either of these two choices. I see that Njoku averaged 16.5 yards per catch in his career at Miami, which is fantastic for a tight end and shows he can probably work the seams downfield. However, Howard wasn't too shabby at 15.1 yards per catch, and he did it over a larger sample size. Howard is also considered the better block of the two right now, so I think he's got a better shot of making an instant impact on the Bucs' offense.
Andrew Norton: O.J. Howard
Neither tight end has a college statistical resume that will blow you away, but both are pure raw athletes that can be molded to become Pro Bowl caliber tight ends. I love the idea of adding another tight end just to give even more dimension to an already dynamic offense. Howard was a beast at the Combine and at 6'6", 251, he'd be a matchup nightmare for defenses that already need to prepare for Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson.
Some of the top shots of Miami's David Njoku.
Joe Kania: David Njoku**
Do I think that Njoku is the better player right now? No, I don't. But frankly, the Buccaneers don't need a tight end to step in a play every down this season. Howard is a freak athlete – basically a wide receiver who can also block defensive ends, but he might not be available when the Buccaneers cast their first-round pick at No. 19. Njoku, on the other hand, will almost certainly be the second tight end off the board and could still be available in the later parts of the first round. What I really like about Njoku is his age – he's just 20 years old while Howard is 22. When Njoku turns 22, I believe he will be a better player than Howard is right now. And with an established tight end already on the roster, Njoku seems to be a perfect long-term investment.