O.J. Howard to meet with Saban before making draft decision

After becoming the unlikely hero for Alabama in its national title win over Clemson, Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard won't have a lot of time to savor the victory, or his role in it, before he has to make a big decision.

Howard and several other Alabama underclassmen are considering applying for early NFL draft entry, and the application deadline (Jan. 18) is less than a week away.

The junior says he'll lean heavily on the advice of his head coach, Nick Saban, before making the decision. He plans to sit down with Saban on Wednesday to discuss whether to turn pro.

"I don't think (making a decision) will be hard at all once I sit down with coach Saban and my family," Howard said during a Tuesday press conference. "Coach helps us make the right decision. He's always done that for me since I've been at the university. ... At the end of the day, I'll sit down with coach tomorrow and we'll make the right decision."

Howard will also have one other important piece of information to help him make the decision -- his feedback from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. Howard revealed before the title game that Alabama players voted to withhold opening letters from the board until the national championship game had been played.

If Howard receives a first-round grade, he'll likely receive Saban's blessing in applying for early entry.

"We try to emphasize with our players that if you're a first-round draft pick, the business decision is you should go out for the draft," Saban said on Tuesday. "If you're in a position in the draft where you can enhance your value by staying in college, then maybe you shouldn't go out for the draft."

The tight end caught five passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns Monday night vs. Clemson, emerging from the background of an Alabama offense that had leaned heavily on running back Derrick Henry leading up to the playoff. Howard had 394 receiving yards this season entering the title game, and hadn't caught a touchdown pass since 2013.

His numbers are far from eye-popping, but NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah wrote on Monday that "his game translates beautifully to the NFL."

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