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First-round tight ends

Howard a big disappointment

The Raiders signed O.J. Howard the other day, and Ian Rapoport suggested he's a possible replacement for Darren Waller. Unlikely. Howard has never really lived up to his status as a former first-round draft pick, and after tearing his Achilles a couple of years ago, he needs to prove he can even be an asset, let along a No. 1.

That injury occurred in 2020, and the next season he was on the field but not a big factor -- 14 catches in 17 games. He was with Buffalo last preseason, then caught on with Houston, but again contributed sparingly, with 10 catches in 13 contests.

Even before the injury, Howard has been a disappointment. He struggled with drops early on in Tampa Bay, never really putting together a breakout year.

When tight ends are selected in the first round, like Howard was, those guys are generally significant contributors in the passing game. (This is especially noteworthy this year, with multiple incoming college prospects with a shot at being drafted in the first round next month -- Michael Mayer and Dalton Kincaid the favorites.) Howard's one of the few who it hasn't really happened for yet.

Since 2000, there have been 25 tight ends selected in the first round of the draft. Of those players, only two have failed to post at least one top-12 season at their position: Anthony Becht, and Howard. Fourteen of the 25 (so far) have multiple such seasons.

Table shows the best career seasons from every tight end selected in the first round since 2000. Not that all of those guys lived up to expectations (Jerramy Stevens, certainly, was a disappointment), but Howard is definitely one of the bigger disappointments.

202142021Kyle Pitts, Atl.1106810261176.66
2019202020Noah Fant, Den.93626733149.38
201982022T.J. Hockenson, 2TM129869146217.42
2018252020Hayden Hurst, Atl.88565716149.110
2017292018David Njoku, Cle.88566394143.99
2017232022Evan Engram, Jac.98737664176.95
2017192018O.J. Howard, T.B.48345655120.515
2014102018Eric Ebron, Ind.1106675014224.24
2013212015Tyler Eifert, Cin.745261513191.58
2010212012Jermaine Gresham, Cin.94647375167.710
2009202011Brandon Pettigrew, Det.126837775190.76
2008302011Dustin Keller, NYJ115658155176.510
2007312016Greg Olsen, Car.1298010733207.33
2006282010Marcedes Lewis, Jac.895870010188.04
200662010Vernon Davis, S.F.93569147191.42
2005302012Heath Miller, Pitt.101718168202.64
2004322015Benjamin Watson, N.O.110748256192.57
200462006Kellen Winslow, Cle.120898753194.53
2003242009Dallas Clark, Ind.133100110610271.71
2002212004Daniel Graham, N.E.48303647108.410
2002142005Jeremy Shockey, NYG121658917198.13
2002282005Jerramy Stevens, Sea.68455545130.412
2001312002Todd Heap, Balt.122688366193.41
2000272001Anthony Becht, NYJ5336321598.113
2000142002Bubba Franks, G.B.71544427145.85

A sign that the Raiders aren't expecting big things from Howard is that even after signing him they were reportedly meeting with another free agent, Austin Hooper. So they're not done adding to the position. Howard will not be on my list of 2023 tight end sleepers.

--Andy Richardson

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