It took some time for Howard to make a big impact in the Buckeyes’ secondary despite being an All-Dade County pick his senior year at Miami’s Dr. Krop High School. And his uneven play as a junior starter in 2011 made some wonder if he would ever reach his potential. But his play this season has given him a chance he’s put himself in a position to be the thirteenth Ohio State cornerback to be selected in the first four rounds of the last 20 NFL drafts.
Howard redshirted his first year on campus, and then had two tackles in 10 games in 2009 on special teams. He saw more time on defense as a sophomore, especially at the end of the year when he (13 tackles, two interceptions-one returned 30 yards for a score against Penn State). That progression got him the starting job in 2011, allowing him to make 41 tackles, intercept two passes, break up five others, and two forced fumbles.
Very good height and length for an outside corner. Transitions forward from his backpedal well for his size. Uses long arms and wrap receivers after the catch, can throw down smaller targets to the ground. Makes contact off the line in press, and has quickness to maintain contact with receivers down the sideline. Takes run responsibility seriously, contains when uncovered and will cut down backs or push them out-of-bounds when needed. Good hands for the interception, secures the easy catch in zone, adjusts to low throws and winning the tip drill.
Very lean build. Not a powerful tackler, and fails to break down in the open field to bring down ballcarriers. Stronger pro receivers might use their bulk to separate downfield. Goes for big shoulder hits instead of wrapping at times. Is leggy and has somewhat tight hips due to his build, quick opponents can separate on cuts, and it takes him time to follow. Recovers adequately from missing his punch or guessing the wrong route at the line but needs to prove the agility to do that at the next level (and improve the consistency in press).
The Florida product struggled to get onto the field consistently early in his Buckeyes’ career, then gave up some plays as a junior starter. But his four interceptions in 2010-2011 portended a playmaking ability, which, combined with NFL size and speed, makes Howard a worthy mid-round pick as a solid reserve outside corner.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.