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Bucs grab tight end O.J. Howard with 19th selection


Tampa Bay's upstart young offense just added another juicy weapon.

The Bucs on Thursday made Alabama tight end O.J. Howard the No. 19 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Few expected the uber-talented pass-catcher to fall this far into the waiting lap of Tampa Bay.

"He's by far and away the best (tight end) this year," one scout told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He can do everything. He's got rare speed and athletic ability. He runs like a receiver. He got better as a blocker from his junior to his senior year. He's a top-level character kid. He has all the professional qualities you want. He'll end up being one of the best tight ends in the league."

Defensive coordinators across the NFC South are on high alert.

The Bucs already boasted an emergent pass-catching tight in Cameron Brate. Now they add Howard, a 6-foot-6, 251-pound specimen with long, 33 3/4-inch arms and massive 10-inch hands. Armed with 4.51 speed, the former Alabama star has the makeup to devastate linebackers in coverage and play all over the formation.

He was underused at Alabama, but Bucs coach Dirk Koetter will find ways to make the most of his new weapon. It only helps that quarterback Jameis Winston also has wideout Mike Evans and newly acquired deep-threat DeSean Jackson to keep secondaries frazzled.

The first Alabama tight end selected in Round 1 since Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome went to the Browns in 1978, Howard joins an attack that has a chance to grow into something special.

"I love the pick. I love the player," NFL Network's Mike Mayock said. "Tampa Bay just got better."