The possibility of the New York Jets drafting tight end OJ Howard with the 6th overall pick has picked up steam recently across mock drafts, articles and the always entertaining, civil discussion Twitter.com.
My favorite picks at 6 are Watson, Hooker, Adams, Howard in that order #TAKES
— Joe Caporoso (@JCaporoso) March 19, 2017
This begs the question, is it insane to take a tight end with the 6th overall pick?
This writer has not been shy about decrying the insanity of using the 6th pick on a running back, for a multitude reasons including it not being a premium position. The positions generally categorized into this bucket are quarterback, left tackle, pass rusher and cover corner (although I’d argue an elite ball hawking free safety who compensates for corner play – cough, cough Maiik Hooker – fits into the bucket as well). Tight end most certainly is not regularly considered a “premium” position so why might it make sense at 6th overall?
Historic comparisons to the performance of tight ends taken in early rounds is less relevant than other positions, due to the evolution of how tight ends are being used in the NFL. The position has gradually become more critical particularly for team’s who have limitations at offensive tackle and wide receiver.
When looking at OJ Howard, he is not a player who can be “formationed” off the field. He is a three down, every situation player. If a defense loads the field with defensive backs and plays predominantly nickel or sub, he can be a lead threat in the passing game, lining up all over the formation. If a defense loads the box up and is blitz happy, Howard can serve as a critical support player to the offensive tackles.
When looking at the Jets, they are weak at offensive tackle until Brandon Shell proves himself in a larger sample size and Kelvin Beachum shows last year wasn’t an injury plagued fluke. Support to the position is imperative to protect notoriously fragile Josh McCown or a young quarterback like Christian Hackenberg or surprise draft pick X. From a receiving and depth chart perspective, the Jets have nothing at tight unless you are foolishly drinking the Austin Seferian-Jenkins Kool-Aid. John Morton is going to run an offense that emphasizes the position in the passing game. Howard, alongside Quincy Enunwa or a healthy Eric Decker, immediately becomes a top target.
Do not be fooled by Howard’s lack of gaudy stats in a loaded Alabama offense, when they featured him as a playmaker, he did nothing but make plays.
So no, it is not insane to consider Howard at #6 if the board breaks a certain way. He is a three down player (unlike Leonard Fournette, who is going to be pulled off the field on third downs), who improves you in the running game, pass protection game and playmaking game when throwing the football.
Yes, you can argue this is a deep class at tight end and the Jets can grab someone in the second or third round. Yes, you can argue they should trade down and then take Howard. However, trading down is easier said than done, which is why the Jets haven’t successfully executed it in the first round in over a decade. Howard also isn’t going to last that long and either is David Njoku. The depth at tight end is great but if by the time you are picking in the second round, if the top three are gone, there is a notable talent and potential drop off.
Is Howard the ideal pick at #6? Personally, I’d prefer Malik Hooker or Deshaun Watson but if this front office is hellbent on Christian Hackenberg, Jamal Adams is off the board, and no trade down is there, Howard is far from an insane pick.
Photo Credit: Alabama.com