Sources have told me that Bruce Arians loves Pat Mahomes, so I think he and Deshaun Watson could be in play here. The Cardinals could easily take a linebacker in Reuben Foster, but they took a chance on a character concern last year in Robert Nkemdiche, and that doesn't look very good a year later. Howard is one of the safest picks in the 2017 NFL Draft and will give Arizona a receiving weapon. Larry Fitzgerald is aging, Michael Floyd was cut, and John Brown is in the last year of his contract. Here's a long-term weapon for Arizona.
Howard is a safe pick, meanwhile, and the organization, including general manager Dave Caldwell, needs a safe pick after Luke Joeckel was a bust, Blake Bortles is trending that direction, and Dante Fowler is still an unknown. Howard is one of the safest picks in the 2017 NFL Draft as a plug-and-play starter. Marcedes Lewis turns 33 just after the draft and is more of a blocker, while receiving tight end Julius Thomas was traded away. Howard would give Bortles another weapon, and Howard's blocking would be an upgrade over Thomas in double-tight end sets.
Howard had 45 catches for 595 yards and three touchdowns in 2016. In 2015, he made 38 catches for 602 yards and two touchdowns. Howard totaled 17 receptions for 260 yards in 2014. The 6-foot-5, 249-pounder flashed big-time potential in 2013. The freshman hauled in 14 passes for 269 yards - 19.2 average - with two touchdowns.
The talented tight end was very under-utilized by Alabama, generally. As he proved with Robert Woods, Marqise Lee, Amari Cooper and then Calvin Ridley, former Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin settles on one receiver and struggles to call plays for anyone else regardless of their talent or mismatch potential. Howard is a fast and dangerous receiving weapon who is a dynamic mismatch weapon. He is too big for defensive backs and too fast for linebackers. Howard looks like a future Pro Bowl tight end. Sources say Howard still needed to improve his route-running and blocking, but he was able to show progress in those areas as a senior. His blocking was significantly better to the point that he was making an impact as a blocker late in his senior year.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
David Njoku, TE, Miami
The Jets will be able to land a great tight end value early in Round 2. Here's one of those potential steals.
The 6-foot-4, 246-pound Njoku is a freak athlete who has size, physicality and excellent speed. The junior recorded 43 receptions for 698 yards with eight touchdowns in 2016 despite Miami not using him as much as it should have. Sources have said that the coaching staff loved tight end Chris Herndon as a worker and teammate, so they tried to reward him by splitting targets his direction. The underachieving play of Brad Kaaya also hurt Njoku's production with the quarterback's propensity to watch the pass rush and take sacks.
According to team contacts, Njoku was torn on whether to enter the 2017 NFL Draft. The main reason he would have returned to Miami was to help his younger brother make the transition as he joins the program in 2017. However after the last regular-season game, Njoku posed for a photo with the senior class and took grass from the field as a keepsake. That suggested the junior was leaning toward entering the 2017 NFL Draft before his actual declaration.
Rd. 2, Pk. 2
Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
The Giants could use more talent at tight end. Jerry Reese likes freak athletes, and Engram's 4.4 speed as a tight end could be dynamic in New York's offense.
Engram is a dangerous receiving weapon. The 6-foot-3, 236-pounder is a fast, athletic tight end who can hurt defenses vertically. He has the speed to get separation and is dangerous with the ball in his hands. Engram needs to add weight for the next level and get better as a drive blocker, but he already shows good intelligence and effectiveness with cut blocks at the right spot. Engram has a good attitude and tries hard as a blocker.
Engram amassed 65 receptions for 926 yards and eight scores in 2016. Against Florida State and Alabama, he showed that he is a dynamic receiving tight end for the NFL in the mold of Jordan Reed. Engram totaled 120 yards on nine receptions with a touchdown against the Seminoles and nine catches for 138 yards and a score versus the Crimson Tide.
Engram had a slow 2015 with only 38 receptions for 464 yards and two touchdowns. In his first two years, he was excellent for Ole Miss. Engram caught 38 passes for 662 yards with two touchdowns in 2014. He was a dangerous receiving threat who carved up Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State that season. As a true freshman, he caught 21 passes for 268 yards with three touchdowns.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland
The Lions could use more tight end talent, and Shaheen is a physical freak. He could pair with Eric Ebron and maybe replace him as the feature tight end in Detroit.
Sources say that Shaheen (6-6, 278) is a freak athlete who could be one of the mid-round steals in the 2017 NFL Draft. He was a workout warrior, as expected, but team sources say that his tape showed serious receiving ability for the next level. Even though Shaheen is tall and thick, he has freaky speed and athleticism for such a big tight end. Teams think that Shaheen could be a versatile tight end to create mismatches in the passing game.
Shaheen caught 57 passes for 867 yards with 16 touchdowns in 2016. The previous season, he had 70 receptions for 803 yards and 10 touchdowns. Some team sources even compared Shaheen to Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama
Houston badly needs a receiving tight end to help its passing offense. The Texans could trade up for Everett if he slips to the third, much like they did for previous second-day picks like Nick Martin, Bernardrick McKinney and Jaelen Strong.
Everett notched 43 receptions for 648 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. In 2015, he totaled 41 catches for 575 yards and eight touchdowns. There is a nice buzz about him in the scouting community. Sources say that Everett (6-2, 239) is a dangerous receiving tight end for the NFL.
Everett is a legitimate receiving tight end prospect for the next level. He started out his career at UAB and played one season there, catching 17 passes for 292 yards and a touchdown. After UAB ended its football program, Everett transferred to South Alabama.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
The Steelers could use a receiving tight end for their offense.
Butt had 46 receptions for 546 yards and four touchdowns in 2016 before suffering some knee tears in his bowl game. He contributed as a freshman (20-235-2) and sophomore (21-211-2), but took his game to another level under head coach Jim Harbaugh in 2015. Butt notched 51 receptions for 654 yards with three touchdowns that season.
The 6-foot-5, 246-pounder is a good receiver down the seam and uses his size to his advantage. Butt looked very good as a receiver and pass blocker in Harbaugh's pro-style offense. Butt could stand to get nastier and improve his run blocking; however, he did show progress on that front as a senior.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech
The Panthers could use a tight end to pair with, and develop behind, Greg Olsen.
In 2016, Hodges totaled 48 catches for 691 yards with seven touchdowns. He improved as a junior and could be one of the real value picks in the deep 2017 tight end class. In 2015, Hodges recorded 40 receptions for 530 yards and six scores. He was a redshirt freshman sensation for the Hokies in 2014 and produced the best year ever in terms of receiving production by a freshman tight end at Virginia Tech. The 2014 season saw him haul in 45 catches for 526 yards and six touchdowns.
Hodges (6-6, 257) needs to improve his blocking for the NFL, but he could be a taller version of a Jordan Reed-type tight end, or and even a Mike Evans-type receiver on the outside.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson
The Titans could use a receiving tight end to pair with Delanie Walker.
Leggett is a solid tight end who can contribute as a receiver and a runner. The senior notched 46 catches for 736 yards with seven scores in 2016. As a junior, he totaled 40 receptions for 525 yards with eight touchdowns. The 6-foot-6, 258-pounder has the size and athleticism to warrant consideration as a three-down starter.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Jonnu Smith, TE, Florida International
The Broncos could use a receiving tight end for their offense.
Smith made nationwide news in 2016 by suffering a serious injury off the field. His pregnant girlfriend poured boiling water on him after arguing about him not spending enough time with her. The senior totaled 42 receptions for 506 yards with four touchdowns on the year. He had quality production as a junior (36-397-4), sophomore (61-710-8) and freshman (39-388-2).
The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder is a quick, athletic receiving tight end to be a potential mismatch weapon. Some sources have Smith grading out as a third- or fourth-round pick. Multiple team sources have compared Smith to being a Charles Clay-type player in the NFL.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Jeremy Sprinkle, TE, Arkansas
The Browns could use more tight end talent. Here's a nice value pick.
As a senior, Sprinkle had 33 receptions for 380 yards with four touchdowns. He played well as a junior as part of a pair with Hunter Henry, recording 27 catches for 289 yards with six scores. As one could expect from playing for Arkansas, Sprinkle (6-5, 252) is a decent blocker, but he also has some off-the-field concerns.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo
The Jaguars could consider taking multiple tight ends considering Marcedes Lewis turns 33 just after the 2017 NFL Draft and Julius Thomas was traded away.
Roberts (6-4, 261) is a blocking tight end for the NFL, yet he also has some receiving ability. Scouting sources said that Roberts could be the best pure Y - blocking - tight end in the 2017 NFL Draft. They say Roberts is athletic enough to make some plays as a short option or in the red zone. He had a quality week at the Senior Bowl, minus a few dropped passes. In 2016, Roberts totaled 45 receptions for 533 yards with 16 touchdowns. As a junior, he made 21 catches for 234 yards with four scores.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Eric Saubert, TE, Drake
The Chiefs grab a tight end to work behind Travis Kelce.
Saubert (6-5, 253) showed his receiving skills at the Senior Bowl, continuing to use speed and athleticism to get separation from defenders. He will need to improve his blocking for the NFL, but his size allows him to match up with front seven defenders. Some scouting sources were raving about Saubert's route-running in the seven-on-seven drill. In a talented tight end class, Saubert could turn into a really nice value pick on Day 3 of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
George Kittle, TE, Iowa
The 49ers could grab some tight end depth and have shown interest in Kittle.
Kittle (6-4, 247) used the combine to help his draft stock as he ran much faster than expected in the 40 and worked out well on the field. As a senior, he made 22 receptions for 314 yards with four touchdowns while playing in a rushing offense. Kittle had 20 catches for 290 yards and six scores as a junior.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Antony Auclair, TE, Laval
The Panthers grab some tight end depth to go behind Greg Olsen.
Houston just shelled out millions of dollars for the rights to attain a franchise quarterback and bell cow running back, Brock Oswiler and Lamar Miller, earlier this offseason; two things they haven't had since the hay days of Matt Shuabb and Arian Foster. With superstar wideout DeAndre Hopkins already entrenched as the undisputed #1 wideout, a security blanket needs to be had to ensure that the former Bronco signal caller, starter of just seven career games, can feel more comfortable and easily establish chemistry and rhythm within Bill O'Brien's offense. A #2 wide receiver, such as Notre Dame's Will Fuller, could feasibly work here, but his questionable hands aren't what the young QB needs at this point. Henry, by contrast, is a do-it-all contributor as a tight end who has terrific hands and is able to work in traffic, big enough to wall off defenders for 1st downs, or cause trouble deep down the seam. He's too big for corners, and too fast for safeties, and he reminds me of Heath Miller. This Houston defense is good enough right now ti carry this team to an AFC South title and into the playoffs, but the offense is going to have to step up eventually, and the moves made in free agency, as well as the draft now with the dangerous tight end, will make the Texans a team to watch out for.
Scouting report:as capability of playing inline or as move tight end. Build-up speed allows him to threaten Y-seam from off line of scrimmage. Hands catcher with excellent hand-eye coordination and can go get the rock in traffic. Shows enough burst to create separation from linebackers and safeties over the top. Does an adequate job of shielding defenders from the pass and posting them up in space. Strong runner after the catch in screen game and will carry defenders with him into the end zone. Willing blocker who comes from program where run blocking is demanded. Latches onto target with centered blow and shows enough strength to sustain. Looks for work downfield as blocker to help spring explosive runs.
Scouting report: Endowed with an all-day NFL body type. Carries long limbs and big hands on a muscular, athletic frame. Comfortable hands in traffic and can make the heavily contested catch. Not afraid of taking a hit over the middle to secure the throw. Fluid mover and has the flexibility to sink and run sharp angle routes. Has body control and catch radius to pluck it high or low. Has size and ability to handle inline blocking assignments and will battle once he's locked into a one-on-one fight. Was trusted to help in pass protection. Lined up wide, in slot and as both move and inline tight end. Finds his place against zone and works himself into open, easy throws for quarterbacks on the move.
Scouting report:Plays with good foot quickness inside his routes. Able to go up top and snare high throws with his long arms. Has the play speed and vertical feel to attack the seam and split Cover 2 safeties. Competes hard after the catch as a runner using jukes and spin moves to elude tacklers. Averaged 6.9 yards after catch. Looks spindly on the hoof, but buys into his role as a blocker. Can lock on and sustain a block longer than expected and was used in pass pro. Good teammate and well-liked in the locker room.
**Trade (Cowboys get 1st round 27th overall pick).
Packers have recently fired their RB coach, and TEs coach. McCarthy has expressed that "changes" will be coming. Howard is coming off of a monster title game, where he was finally able to showcase his hands, and speed as a TE. We know he can block (you have to if you go to 'Bama), but we saw the total package. A second TE that is not always injured and can create matchup problems will help out an anemic offense - so will the addition of Jordy Nelson and Ty Montegomery, coupled with the progress of Jared Abberderis and Jeff Janis.
It was expected that the Chargers would take a tight end at some point after losing Ladarius Green to the Steelers in free agency. Hunter Henry is the top tight end in the class, and he was viewed as a high second-round prospect, so this selection makes a ton of sense. The Chargers probably should've gone with Myles Jack, but I won't knock them down too much for it.