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Bengals 9 for 9 NFL Draft Series: O.J. Howard

We take a look at why the Bengals’ best option for the No. 9 pick may be taking the top ranked tight end in this year’s draft.

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NCAA Football: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl-Alabama vs Washington Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have plenty of needs heading into the NFL Draft, but tight end isn’t one of them in 2017.

However, this franchise has shown it will address a future need one or two years early, as evidenced by taking Tyler Eifert in the 2013 draft with Jermaine Gresham still manning that spot.

We’ve seen it seemingly every time the Bengals have drafted a cornerback in the last 10 years, as those picks are typically being used to replace aging vets or impending free agents the following year, so we shouldn’t be surprised if the Bengals opt to address a position now that they feel could be a need in 2018.

That’s why Alabama tight end O.J. Howard could be very much in play for the No. 9 pick when the Bengals are on the clock. Howard made a major impact as soon as he got onto a college campus. He started five times as a true freshman while leading the Tide with 19.2 yards per reception on 14 grabs for 269 yards and two scores. In 2014, he caught 17 balls for 260 yards and no scores.

Howard’s breakout season came in 2015 when he caught 38 passes for 602 yards and two scores. He also earned Offensive MVP honors in the national title game with 208 receiving yards and two touchdowns on five catches vs Clemson.

Last season, Howard caught 45 passes for 595 yards and three scores while earning third-team All-American honors.

Here’s why the Bengals should take Howard at No. 9:

  • He’s easily the best tight end prospect in this draft.
  • He’s ranked No. 6 overall by CBS Sports, No. 8 by ESPN and No. 9 by, making his value more than worthy of a top-10 pick.
  • Speaking of, there’s a good chance Howard is the best player available at No. 9, and the BPA approach is often the best way to build a 53-man roster.
  • Howard is a more complete tight end than Tyler Eifert, who is primarily a receiving threat whose blocking needs a lot of work.
  • Eifert can’t stay healthy, so it’s absolutely necessary that the Bengals have another capable tight end behind him.
  • There’s also a chance Eifert isn’t re-signed as he enters a contract year, meaning Howard could quickly become the No. 1 tight end in this offense as soon as 2018.
  • When you have weak offensive tackles like the Bengals do, having a good blocking tight end can help mask that issue, so Howard may be the best way to help this offensive line at pick No. 9 with no worthy lineman on whom to spend the pick.

Here is why the Bengals should pass on Howard at No. 9:

  • Tight end is not a need as long as Eifert is here, and ideally, he’s re-signed to a long-term deal within the next year.
  • Tight ends are not worth drafting in the top 10, and while Howard is a good prospect, he’s not one you absolutely can’t pass on at No. 9.
  • The Bengals already have C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Kroft on the roster, both of whom the team is high on as backups behind Eifert.
  • Howard was a ghost in far too many games in college, and much of his production came in two games against Clemson in the College Football Playoff.
  • Pro Football Focus actually ranks Howard No. 18 overall, meaning he’d be a significant reach if he’s drafted in the top 10.
  • The Bengals have far more pressing needs, and tight end doesn’t do much, if anything for them in 2017, which should be a do-or-die year for Marvin Lewis.

Looking at the case for and against Howard, it’s clear he’s one of, if not the most intriguing option for the Bengals at No. 9. If he was selected by Cincinnati, he would probably be a pick who most fans wouldn’t be happy about, but Howard would also have great long-term potential to be more than worthy of the pick.

What do you think about taking taking Howard at No. 9?