TE O.J. Howard | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | 2nd Year
2017 Stats: 26 rec., 432 yards, 6 TD
Looking at peripheral numbers from his rookie season, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard more than justified his status as the No. 19 overall pick in the 2017 draft. His 16.6 yards per catch led all tight ends, qualified for official league leaders or otherwise, and based on yards per route run (via Pro Football Focus) Howard trailed only Rob Gronkowski, Hunter Henry, Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz among tight ends.
The primary issue for Howard last year was opportunity. He missed the final two games with an ankle injury, but fellow tight end Cameron Brate had essentially double the number of targets (77 to 39 for Howard) and overall target share (12.7 percent for Brate; 6.4 percent for Howard). The Buccaneers could have opened the door for Howard to be the main guy this year, but they brought Brate back on a contract extension.
Another issue for Howard, and all of Tampa Bay’s pass catchers, is the three-game absence of quarterback Jameis Winston to start the season. In the three games Ryan Fitzpatrick started in 2017, Howard totaled six catches (on eight targets) for 104 yards and a touchdown, including an empty stat line in Week 10 against the New York Jets. Over those same three games with Fitzpatrick under center, Brate pulled in three of eight targets for 28 yards.
Howard somehow only had six red zone targets last year, compared to 13 for Brate, with only three of his six touchdowns coming inside the 20 (five of Brate’s six touchdowns came in the red zone). History with Brate surely fostered trust from Winston in 2017, but that may even out some this year.
Brate finished as TE10 in ESPN leagues leagues last year (default PPR scoring), while Howard finished as TE21. Howard should get more targets this year, and create a more even split.
Howard is TE14 (pick 13.03) and TE15 (pick 13.09) in Fantasy Football Calculator 12-team standard and PPR mock drafts right now, respectively, while Brate does not appear on either ADP chart. Shifting to Fantasy Pros’ current PPR ADP consensus, Howard is TE15 and Brate is TE17. In standard scoring ADP on Fantasy Pros, Howard is TE14 and Brate is TE17.
It’s easy to see Howard’s upside, and he could edge into a TE1 finish this year if things break just right. But shy of an injury that sidelines Brate, it’s hard to see a full 2018 breakout, and that finish as a top 10-12 fantasy tight end, for the second-year man out of Alabama.