Buccaneers' tight end O.J. Howard may only have one year under his NFL belt, but the 6'6" tight end has already made himself known. He tied for the team-lead in touchdowns with fellow tight end Cameron Brate in 2017. The pair had six apiece. It tied Howard for the second-most in the league among rookies last season behind only Pittsburgh's JuJu Smith-Schuster and ahead of breakout rookies like New Orleans' Alvin Kamara and Carolina's Christian McCaffrey, who each had five.
That could have something to do with why ESPN's NFL Nation blog pegged Howard as one of six young tight ends that has star potential. Despite the fact that veteran tight end Cameron Brate just inked a six-year deal this past offseason, there's room for more than one star tight end on the roster. The Bucs' system works in Howard's favor in this way, as ESPN's Jenna Laine pointed out. The Bucs' offense operates out of a two-tight end set more than most and incorporates the position into the passing game (a.k.a. where the stats show up) the tenth-most of all teams. It should provide ample opportunity for Howard to take advantage of to become one of the more recognizable tight ends in the league – if he isn't already.
View some of the top photos of TE O.J. Howard from the 2017 season.
Howard had some outstanding performances across the 14 games he played (and started) last season as a rookie. It would take a couple weeks before Howard saw the end zone, but that chance came in Week 3 at home against the New York Giants and he capitalized. His first NFL touchdown came In the first quarter on a 58-yard bomb from Jameis Winston that helped the Bucs to an early 13-0 lead. Three weeks later at Buffalo, Howard was a perfect 6-for-6 and caught not one but two touchdown passes, one on a seven-yard crossing route in the third quarter and the second on another long ball for 33 yards from Winston in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 20. Howard scored in each of his two last games during Weeks 13 and 14 before being sidelined the rest of the season with an ankle injury.
Howard has been fully participative in offseason workouts and attended mandatory minicamp, where he was a human highlight reel of spectacular catches. Hopefully, it's a foreshadowing of what's to come for 2018. To read the full article with Howard and the other tight ends ESPN picked as potential stars, click here.