TAMPA – Tight end O.J. Howard may have been the cleanest prospect in the 2017 draft pool. Scouts gave him a character grade that was off the charts and love the fact he’s smart, humble articulate and a team-first, me-last kind of guy.
The only real knock on Alabama’s “Mr. Clean’’ was a suggestion by some scouts that he had a tendency to coast at times and a belief by others that he didn’t always play with the competitive edge they want to see in a player of his caliber.
Well, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has one word for those suggestions: hogwash.
OK, truth be known, Koetter actually has several words for those suggestion, and we have reason to believe that if he were asked privately, very few of them would be printable on a website that caters to fans of all ages such as FloridaFootballInsiders.com.
That’s why we’re very glad that Koetter controlled his emotions but still offered up a very honest answer to those charges when he was asked about them by Tom Pelissero of USA Today during a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview he conducted with Koetter last week.
Pelissero: “I asked people around (Howard) how he got to No. 19, and there were no big red flags about anything at Alabama (but) the one thing that did get brought up was, ‘How competitive is the guy?’ What did you find in that regard?
Koetter: “I’ll just say, anybody that said that, let’s see that person line up against him. Let’s see how that works out. When I hear people say that, that just makes me laugh. I mean, how competitive? This guy played at Alabama. This guy played his best in the biggest games. He played in the SEC every week, played in national championship games.
“You can beat up every player in this draft for something. As soon as a team picks a guy, a certain percentage of the people out there are going to love the pick and a certain percentage are going to start beating him up. So that one is a funny one to me. O.J. is one of the cleanest players in the draft.’’
Now, in some ways that is exactly what you would expect Koetter to say. He surely wants to defend his player and the Bucs decision to draft him. But keep in mind that Koetter is as straight a shooter as there is and doesn’t shy away from talking about a player’s faults.
Does that mean Howard is destined to play for 15 years and earn a dozen Pro Bowl berths? Not at all. But the fact scouts find so little wrong with him suggests the Bucs have a real prize prospect on their hands and that there is nothing to keep the Bucs “Mr. Clean’’ from becoming a true impact player.