Last year's draft class wasn't very deep or talented at the tight end position. It's shaping up to be a much better class this year. The two marquee prospects at the position are Alabama's O.J. Howard and Michigan's Jake Butt (both seniors). Howard was grossly underused last fall before exploding in the national title game against Clemson. He's been more involved in the offense this season. Butt plays in Jim Harbaugh's tight end-friendly offense and has developed into an outstanding all-around player. We're still a long way off from the 2017 NFL Draft, but I wanted to take the pulse of some personnel executives to see how they would stack up these two talented tight ends. Who's the better pro prospect? I polled five executives. Here are their answers.
Executive 1: O.J. Howard
"Howard is the better prospect. He's faster and a bigger playmaker. However, Butt is a better blocker and he catches the ball more consistently."
Executive 2: O.J. Howard
"I like them both but I came away a little more excited about Howard. Butt does remind me a little of Jason Witten coming out. I think they'll both be successful at the next level."
Executive 3: O.J. Howard
"It's close but I'll take Howard. He gives your offense more mismatch opportunities because of his athleticism."
Executive 4: O.J. Howard
"Howard is more complete. He's a better blocker and he plays much faster."
Executive 5: O.J. Howard
"I think I would take a chance on the skill set of Howard over the steadiness of Butt."
Summary: That's a clean sweep for Howard.
Conclusion: I studied Butt and Howard in the summer and I believe both will be Day One starters at the next level. Howard provides a little more speed and athleticism while Butt has a better feel on option routes and is more reliable in the run game. I gave them very similar grades, but I would probably lean toward Howard right now. I'm really looking forward to studying their senior tape and determining whether or not I should keep Howard over Butt on my list.