Photos of Howard during the Bucs' rookie mini-camp practices.
For many college players, especially those playing in spread offenses, the transition to the NFL can take some time. The Buccaneers don't believe that will be the case with their first-round draft pick, O.J. Howard.
In college, Howard played in an Alabama system that is considered a spread offense but still employs many pro-style elements. Howard lined up in a down position on the line of scrimmage, which some spread tight ends rarely do in college, and was active in the run game as opposed to being utilized primarily in the passing game.
After a few weeks in the building, Howard's position coach has seen enough to feel confident that the rookie will have no problem adjusting to the NFL.
"That's the thing, you go through the evaluation process of guys coming from college – not very many guys in the college ranks, with spread offenses, actually have their hand in the ground," Tight Ends Coach Ben Steele said. "So, when you get a guy like O.J. who is an every-down tight end that has speed to this fit on the run game and obviously, his dynamic receiving ability in the pass game, to find a guy that's a true 'Y' [tight end] that's going to be able to help us out, for us to get him, he's definitely going to be a huge addition for depth at our position."
While he can play every down if asked, it's unlikely Howard will have to. And while he's been referred to as a “solar system” player, or a player an offense can revolve around, he won't have to fill that role right away. The Buccaneers return Cameron Brate, who was tied for the league-led among tight ends with eight touchdown receptions in 2016, along with to Pro Bowl-caliber wide receivers in Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. That will only help his transition.
Howard has a strong supporting cast and can take his time to grow into his role in the Bucs' offense. It doesn't seem like he'll need very long, though.