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O.J. Howard Is A First-Round Pick, But He's No Ozzie Newsome


As many top-flight prospects are, Alabama tight end O.J. Howard was asked who he watches and models his game after in the NFL.

He named the Dallas Cowboys' Jason Witten, Seattle Seahawks' Jimmy Graham and Washington Redskins' Jordan Reed – three of the best tight ends in the game right now.

But there's another tight end who Howard dug up tape on, and he just so happens to be the man who could select him in this year's draft if the Ravens are willing to take a tight end at No. 16.

Howard said watched tape of fellow Alabama tight end turned Ravens general manager, Ozzie Newsome.

"Ozzie was way better than me," Howard said. "He's on a whole different level. He's kind of like a receiver in a tight end's body. I looked at a lot of his film and he's really good."

Howard is no slouch himself. He notched 45 catches for 595 yards and three touchdowns during his senior season. As a junior, he caught 38 passes for 602 yards and two touchdowns.

The stats aren't what make Howard stand out, however. Miami junior David Njoku, the player competing with Howard for the title of the best tight end in this year's class, had 43 catches for 698 yards and eight scores last year.

But Howard wasn't utilized as much as he could have been given Alabama's power offense. And judging by his size, athleticism and knack for having big games on the biggest stages, the 6-foot-6, 249-pound prospect will likely become a first-round pick.

Howard made four catches for 106 yards and a touchdown in this year's championship loss to the Clemson Tigers. They year before, he hauled in five passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns in a championship win over the Tigers.

As of now, Howard is being talked about as being the best in the 2017 class and selected in the mid-first round.

"That's a big accomplishment, a big statement for people to say that," Howard said. "But you've got to prove it. You've got to go out and make people believe it."

Howard came to the Senior Bowl to do just that. He was the biggest name, and perhaps the highest future draft pick, to arrive in Mobile, Ala. Other highly-touted seniors bailed out or didn't accept invites.

"Whenever I get an opportunity to play against great talent, I'm always willing to do that," Howard said.

Not only did Howard come to practice and play, but he arrived on a mission. On the first day of practice, he flashed his receiving prowess with several one-handed catches. On the second day, he strapped on the pads and proved himself as a blocker, which was his biggest goal for the week.

At the end of the week, he was given the award for the best practice player at the Senior Bowl.

"Just everything he does is so smooth and easy," NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "He was outstanding."

So would the Ravens draft Howard, or any tight end, in the first round? Several mock drafts have him going right around where the Ravens are picking, but none to Baltimore.

The Ravens already have a deep tight end class with Dennis Pitta, Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle and Darren Waller. But they still could look to get younger and upgrade the position with a dynamic receiving threat that could stretch the field.

"It would be great to play for Ozzie," Howard said. "Hopefully the opportunity will come."

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