BY ROY CUMMINGS
TAMPA – Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht was literally shaking with excitement when he called tight end O.J. Howard to tell him he was going to be their choice with the 19th pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night.
That’s how surprised Licht and everyone else with the Bucs was to have landed what most considered not just the top tight end in the draft but one of the top 10 players in the draft overall.
Howard wasn’t all that surprised. His agent told him to expect to go anywhere between the sixth overall pick in the draft and the 20th and the fact he fell in that range came as no shock to him.
“The way the draft started off, I could kind of see it happening,’’ Howard said of his fall, which was sparked by a run on quarterbacks early on in the selection process.
What makes Howard so special is his ability to block effectively in the run game and catch passes like a wide receiver. In fact, Licht compared Howard to another tight end who has often been used as a receiver.
“From an athletic standpoint he has the size and speed of a Jimmy Graham,’’ Licht said, referring to the former Saints and current Seahawks tight end. “But I don’t want to get too much in comparisons.’’
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter didn’t mind getting into comparisons. Though he didn’t name names he said Howard is “a throwback’’ that is becoming increasingly rare around the NFL.
“There used to be a lot more of them around the league like him, and there just aren’t that many any more,’’ Koetter said. “(That’s why) we didn’t think this was going to happen.’’