Bolt Beat Weekly Poll: What if Chargers draft top TE O.J. Howard?
By Matt Pagels
Bolt Beat will do weekly polls on Twitter. This week we focused on the Los Angeles Chargers potentially shocking the world by selecting a tight end with their first pick.
This isn’t click bait. In fact, this is far from it. I’m also not here to sell you the idea of taking a tight end at No. 7 overall. This poll was based off several “ideas” from fans on Twitter that involved the Chargers selecting Alabama star tight end O.J. Howard with their first pick. I wanted to see how many fans would agree or disagree with the pick, and that’s why the poll was created. I am stating this beforehand so you don’t rush to the comments section without reading and immediately bash me (which is probably happening right this very second because that’s the world we live in).
With that off my chest, Howard is looking like one of the best tight ends to come out of college in recent memory. The tight end class in general is quite stacked. According to an unnamed NFC general manager via Howard’s NFL Draft profile, he has all the talent in the world.
“Alabama recruited a shiny toy but (Lane) Kiffin never really knew what to do with it. I don’t worry about the talent at all. He could be an all-pro. I just need to know if he loves football.”
Pro Football Focus compares Howard to tight end Greg Olsen, a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time second-team All-Pro with the Carolina Panthers. After a stellar combine where the 6-foot-6, 251-pounder ran a 4.51 40-yard dash (second-best among tight ends), put up 22 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press (tied for third-best) and led all tight ends in both the 20-yard shuttle (4.16 time) and 60-yard shuttle (11.46 time), his stock has been rising. In Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock draft, he has Howard going to the New York Jets at No. 6 overall.
The Chargers drafted TE Hunter Henry with their second pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, so tight end isn’t a need. In retrospect, that was a steal, because Henry should have been selected (and was mocked there prior to the draft) in the first round. Scouts have said that it’s rare for a tight end to shine in his first year, but Henry did just that. His eight receiving touchdowns were tied for the second-most among all rookies–and he did that in a timeshare.
Henry is the future, and he came at a perfect time with future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates likely in his final year with the Chargers. That brings me to the only point where I can see Tom Telesco and the Chargers pulling the trigger on a talent like Howard: With Gates’ role slowly being reduced and his retirement soon on the way, why not add another top-tier TE to pair with Henry going forward, especially if the top safeties and defensive linemen are off their board when it comes time to pick?
Again, I don’t think the Chargers have the luxury in drafting Howard with their first pick, especially with more important needs elsewhere, but Howard is a big, fast athletic freak who can stretch the field and also make a huge impact in the red zone. He would be a mismatch all over the field, and his potential use as a wide receiver in several packages with Henry as the primary TE could be dangerous. Not only that, but both are solid run blockers, which will help in new HC Anthony Lynn’s run-heavy offense (assuming that’s what the Chargers are transitioning to). You can thrive with two dominant tight ends on the field, just ask the New England Patriots.
Let’s see what the fans think:
Weekly Poll! I've been seeing this question pop up a lot on Twitter, so let's ask: Would you be upset if Chargers drafted TE OJ Howard at 7?
— Bolt Beat (@BB_Chargers) March 23, 2017
A landslide, but I agree with it. Howard is a talented prospect, but the Chargers can still go with the “best pick available” approach while filling a need at the same time. Selecting a defensive lineman, safety or even a cornerback seem to be the most logical choice at No. 7.
On the other hand, you never know with the Chargers. They did shock the world last year when they drafted DE Joey Bosa. Deja vu?