O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Weight: 251 pounds
2016: 45 REC, 595 YDS, 13.2 AVG, 3 TD
2015: 38 REC, 602 YDS, 15.8 AVG, 2 TD
2014: 17 REC, 260 YDS, 15.3 AVG
2013: 14 REC, 269 YDS, 19.2 AVG, 2 TD
40-yard dash: 4.51 seconds
Bench press: 22 reps
Vertical jump: 30.0 inches
Broad jump: 121.0 inches
3-cone drill: 6.85 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.16 seconds
60-yard shuttle: 11.46 seconds
Do the Eagles really need another tight end? I don’t know, do you think Carson Wentz could use a weapon who produced nine receptions for 314 yards and 3 touchdowns in the last two national championship games?
If O.J. Howard is somehow still available when the Eagles are on the clock with the 14th-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, "need" goes completely out the window. This kid possesses the athleticism of a wide receiver or running back, only contained in the body of a tight end -- and if he proved anything on college football's biggest stage the past two years, that kind of rare ability can take over games.
From a pure measureables standpoint, Howard is reminiscent of L.J. Smith, only bigger, faster and far more accomplished out of college. And while Smith could never quite put the total package together during his six seasons with the Eagles, he occasionally provided glimpses into what that type of speed down the seam can affect defenses in a west coast offense.
At times, it appears Zach Ertz is on the brink of becoming that threat for the Eagles. Even still, Ertz ran the 40 in 4.76 seconds -- a whole .25 seconds slower than Howard. These are not the same players.
Howard doesn't necessarily imperil Ertz's role, either. If anything, they would complement each other. Just imagine defenses trying to cover two towering tight ends who can run, with the likes of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith on the perimeters. An offense that operates primarily out of a two-tight end formation is just about unheard of in the NFL these days, although Howard is practically another wideout.
Trey Burton can line up all over the place and contribute on special teams, so introducing Howard into the ecosystem doesn't eliminate his role as much as it reduces room for growth. Brent Celek, on the other hand, is 32 and clearly in decline -- life without the 10-year veteran is right around the corner, so there’s room for Howard on the roster.
The Eagles don’t "need" to invest the 14th pick in another tight end with Ertz under contract and Burton a viable option as a No. 2. Then again, talents like Howard aren't easy to come by, so he certainly should be a consideration.
Perhaps it's fortunate that the draft may take care of the Eagles' problem for them, as Howard may not slip out of the top 10. He probably shouldn't. While his overall production at Alabama wasn't outrageous, naturally raising some questions as to why, seeing him dominate the competition when it mattered most ought to be enough for a team to take the chance he can do the same at the next level.
Even a team like the Eagles -- with an embarrassment of riches at the tight end position and greater needs elsewhere -- would have to give Howard some serious thought.
Other Eagles draft targets at No. 14:
Tennessee DE Derek Barnett
Michigan DE Taco Charlton
Ohio State CB Gareon Conley
Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
Western Michigan WR Corey Davis
Alabama LB Reuben Foster
LSU RB Leonard Fournette
Alabama TE O.J. Howard
Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey
Washington CB Kevin King
Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey
Michigan State DT Malik McDowell
UCLA DE Takkarist McKinley
Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk
Washington WR John Ross
LSU CB Tre'Davious White
Clemson WR Mike Williams