TAMPA – Bad news for fantasy football owners of Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard and anyone else who was hoping the rookie would put together a Pro Bowl caliber season right out of the box this year.
It’s not going to happen.
That’s what history tells us anyway.
Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated and the MMQB has penned an in-depth look at the struggles rookie tight ends face and he points out that statistically at least, they seldom produce at a high level.
For example, the time a rookie tight end gained more than 1,000 yards receiving was in 1961, when Mike Ditka caught 56 passes for 1,076 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Bears.
The way tight ends are used has changed dramatically since, but neither the advent of the pass-catching tight end nor the increased emphasis on the pass has allowed rookies to excel at the position.
As Burke’s story points out, the highest yardage total produced by a rookie tight end in the last decade was the 627-yard season put together by Seattle’s John Carlson in 2008.
Since then, the tight ends who have gained the most yards as rookies have averaged 40 receptions for 438 yards and four touchdowns during their first year in the league, which is hardly the stuff of an All Pro.
Throw in the fact that Howard is going to spend most of his rookie season either splitting or sharing snaps with Cameron Brate and there’s reason to expect his production will be modest at best.
Brate, after all, is coming off a breakout season in which he caught 57 passes for 660 yards and eight touchdowns, numbers that suggest his chemistry with quarterback Jameis Winston is second only that which Winston has with wide receiver Mike Evans.
The Bucs aren’t going to mess with that chemistry simply to cater to a rookie. Besides, what Howard seems to do best right not catch the ball but block for the run.
That’s what sets him apart from Brate, and it’s one of the reasons he was so highly sought after in the first place. Sure, Howard has the ability to be an All-Pro caliber pass catcher and likely will be one day.
Just don’t expect that day to come this season.