O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Disclaimer: Anyone who has commented with me knows I can be a little wordy; you have been warned. Thankfully the TL; DR is in the title! Skip to the bottom if you want a video from a smarter guy than e that says all that I do.
With that out of the way, let's talk about the Bills.
Going to school in upstate New York, I've always had a soft-spot for the Buffalo Bills; in many ways they are our AFC East counterparts. Our teams seem to mirror each other frequently, the Jim Schwartz connection, we have their old players (Bradham, Brooks, formerly Kiko and McKelvin), they have Shady. Unfortunately, their version of the Cowboys not only just won the Super Bowl in historical fashion, but has had the AFC East on lockdown for the past two decades due to the GOAT coach and arguably the GOAT QB. The thought of putting Dallas in that scenario seriously makes me want to puke. Add in the 4 Super Bowl losses, and it's not hard to be sympathetic to the Bills as a Birds fan. (To finish out the analogy, the Dolphins are their version of the Giants and the Jets are their WFT. Think about it.)
In the near future, however, the Bills have a shot to be competitive in the AFC if they play their cards right, just as the Eagles do. Their biggest drama this offseason was the Tyrod Taylor situation, which ended with what is essentially a two-year extension that lands Tyrod some more financial security and the Bills get a team-friendlier cap number. I do not for a moment believe that Tyrod Taylor is a long-term QB option, especially with a new coaching staff, but he's a good stop-gap option that removes the need to force a pick on Watson, Kizer, or Trubisky. I do not think the Bills will select a QB early in the 2017 draft (I'm looking hard at that 2018 draft if I'm Buffalo though...)
So what do the Bills have to build a team around in preparation for a long-term QB? They have a decent OL and a few more years left of Shady before he falls off a cliff. They've got some nice pieces on the defensive side of the ball in Dareus, Shaq Lawson, Jerry Hughes, Ronald Darby, and, if he bounces back, Reggie Ragland. They've got one awesome wideout in Sammy Watkins but he's constantly plagued by injuries and...well, they've got pretty much no one else after letting Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin walk in FA (I'm not counting the Ghost of Percy Past). Their #2 WR as it stands is Andre Holmes. No Bueno. Also their secondary, outside of the aforementioned Darby and newly signed Micah Hyde, lost two starters in Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams. So that's where I'd start looking, obviously you want to take BPA regardless, but I'm skewing towards playmakers in the passing game and playmakers in the secondary.
As our draft is playing out, names I was looking at start flying off the board, Adams, Hooker, Davis, Foster, bringing us to the Bills on the clock. In real life, if the board plays out like this, I could totally see Buffalo's war room making some calls in a potential trade back, the more assets the better. But if we are staying, then we're picking the player with the upside and potential to be the best offensive player in this entire draft:
OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
Right away, I know I've lost some of you who think TEs are never worth a 1st round pick, let alone top 10; especially in a TE-rich draft. But OJ oozes potential, purely thinking of him as a TE is almost as big of a waste as his usage in the Alabama offense. He definitely fits the bill (pun intended) as an offensive playmaker, regardless of his position. But mostly I like his fit with the Bills because they already have another TE to pair up with him in Clay that they could reasonably imitate those 2 TE sets they've come to know so well (from being killed by them by the Pats). That in and of itself:
Strengthens your run game
Makes your offense less predictable
Mitigates their weak WRs when only one guy not named Sammy Watkins is out there.
Makes your offense way better if they can actually manage to trot out another quality WR not named Sammy Watkins.
And that's just scheming alone! We haven't touched on the player himself! This article is already getting too long, so I'll boil down the things that OJ Howard brings to the table in three main points.
#1: Pure Athletic Ability
I hate starting here, since lots of great NFL players are great athletes, but not all great athletes are great NFL players...but you always look hard at the guys who have God-given talents that you can't teach or coach into them. For as much as I loved guys like Jason Avant, there's only so much you can do in a league of freak athletes if you are not a freak athlete. Thankfully, OJ Howard is as freaky as they come.
His combine numbers, for your viewing pleasure:
40 Yrd Dash: 4.51
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 22
Vertical Jump: 30''
Broad Jump: 10'01"
20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.16
3-Cone Drill: 6.85
For those of you keeping track at home, this is a guy who has as fast of a 40 as David Johnson, a better 3-cone than Tyler Lockett, and a better short shuttle than Khalil Mack (credit to Brett Kollman for that)...at 6'6'' and 250 lbs...like, what? Those numbers would be eye-popping just by themselves.
Then you see stuff like this:
Yeah, dude's got physical talent. But physical talent doesn't equate to NFL Talent alone. Thankfully, he's still got more to talk about.
Fun Fact: before I move on, his spider graph as purely as an ATH (non-position) puts him as a 95% comp to our very own Ginger Jesus. Is OJ Howard the Carson Wentz of TEs? Who knows, but I am willing to say that voting against Howard is voting against our savior/being a Dallas fan. Just sayin'.
#2: Run Blocking
OJ Howard is a very, very good run blocker. Almost as elite as a TE can possibly be coming out of college.
What, you wanted more than that? Fine.
In the above cut-up from the game against Texas A&M, many plays have Howard blocking number #1 overall prospect and likely pick Myles Garrett. He doesn't win every single time against the DE (if a TE could, then your DE has bigger problems) but several of the plays, like 0:53 for example, looks like a 6th lineman naturally taking on a rusher. And all of that before NFL coaching and strength programs. He won't set the world on fire as a rookie blocking, but he will be very dependable and in a few years, with good coaching, he could potentially be Brent Celek blocking in a Gronkowski-like frame, which is terrifying. This gets even more terrifying given the final topic:
#3: Pass-catching, or, The Human embodiment of the word Mismatch
This is the biggest point of contention for most people. "jimmyrustler, you idiot." They say, "OJ Howard didn't put up numbers at ‘Bama, as we all know you need numbers to have NFL success."
Yeah, tell me how that worked out for Reggie Bush, Marcus Smith, or, the guy Howard gets comped to the most, Eric Ebron. Counting stats matter, don't get me wrong, but that's not the whole story.
You guys saw the national championships and OJ embarrassing fools on the big stage, I don't need to link to that. So why doesn't Howard have the stats to back up those splash plays? Because, outside of Clemson, it appears that Alabama legitimately never asked Howard to do it as part of the regular gameplan, preferring him as a run blocker and move-the-chains guy...
It's the single most baffling thing about Alabama.
It makes more sense when you remember that ‘Bama has traditionally been, was during Howard's tenure, and will likely continue to be a run-first team. If you take out Amari Cooper and Julio Jones, the last Alabama WR to post a 1,000 yard season was DJ Hall ('04-'07) who was the first receiver in school history to post two of them. Even top wideout Calvin Ridley put up 776 yards on 71 catches as the #1 option in 2016. I find that hard to blame on OJ Howard.
Add to that the fact that QB Jalen Hurts is a great athlete but more of a Vick than a Rodgers in terms of being a pocket QB and well...you can see why Howard was asked to block for Hurts and Bo Scarbrough more often.
Regardless, you meant to tell me that a guy who does this (click here).
Surrounded by future NFL talent can't catch. Bull. Howard has some of the softest hands you'll see from a dude that size.
Which brings me to my penultimate point: when you're scouting players for the NFL it's true you need to look hard at who they are on the field now. But you're also projecting what they may one day become given the proper coaching, conditioning, and time to grow. When we picked Carson, nobody expected him to step in as the best QB in Eagles History. But we took Wentz thinking that in a few years, he could be a guy that keeps us in the running for the big dance every year. This same thinking is what I believe has many teams salivating over OJ.
He's not a complete prospect, very few players are, but all that means is on top of what he has now, he still has room to grow; his ceiling is absolutely astronomical. Can you name another TE not named Gronkowski who could even fathom being a Gronk-level threat to gameplan around? Who can not only be bigger than DBs and faster than linebackers but can outrun DBs and outmuscle linebackers? That's damn absurd.
When you throw in a healthy Sammy Watkins and Shady quietly still being Shady and doing Shady things, that's a legit offense. You get a long-term QB for the Bills who even sniffs at All-Pro potential, suddenly that's a legit threat in the AFC, not counting any other offensive pieces they may add. I'm not super familiar with Bills GM Doug Whaley, but we're all familiar with our old pal Sean McDermott, the new Bill head coach. His defensive nature is the only thing stopping me from thinking the ills may do this in real life, but as an armchair GM for the Bills, I couldn't possibly resist.
To all of you who read this entire thing, holy hell, thanks so much. To those of you who're looking for the vid, it's below, Brett Kollman is an amazing scout who's trying to make it his full-time job and BLG has linked to his work before. I don't even know the dude, but his work is legit and I'd love to see him put out more of it, so give him some views and whatnot.
2017 BGN Mock Draft Order
1) Browns (JALupowitz): Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2) 49ers (sports00fan00): Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
3) Bears (gubby): Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama
4) Jaguars (TheWhalwing): Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
5) Titans (drc242): Jamal Adams, S, LSU
6) Jets (boomorbust): Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
7) Chargers (NowWhat?): Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
8) Panthers (B-Potts): Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
9) Bengals (Kiko’s Delivery Service): Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
10) Bills (jimmyrustler): O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
11) Saints (NotSoSlick):
12) Browns (Straight Edge Sid):
13) Cardinals (Paulie97):
14) Eagles (ablesser88):
15) Colts (mconner96):
16) Ravens (The Man, The Myth, the Matthews!):
17) Washington (kbruneault):
18) Titans (mchiodo):
19) Buccaneers (ei78):
20) Broncos (NVEaglesShark):
21) Lions (Shark Fighter):
22) Dolphins (J. Wil):
23) Giants (BigWardy59):
24) Raiders (big DUB):
25) Texans (GotFunds):
26) Seahawks (Rogmcc23):
27) Chiefs (B1G Cat):
28) Cowboys (RegalEagle):
29) Packers (Wutang_):
30) Steelers (General_Lee12):
31) Falcons (SirJon):
32) Saints (Huffs_cellmate):