The tight end position is a bit of a mystery in Miami right now. Free agency will dictate the direction of this group. Dion Sims is obviously the first domino that needs to fall. Kenny Stills leaving could change the direction of the offense to incorporate the tight ends more in 2017. I think a tight end will be draft or acquired regardless, but these factors will determine how high that draft pick is.
These are the potential tight ends with pick 21 for the Dolphins:
OJ Howard – Alabama, 6’6” – 250 lbs
2016 Volume Stats: 45 receptions, 595 yards, 3 Touchdowns
Games: Texas A&M, Kent State, Auburn, Washington, Clemson, Senior Bowl
Any member of the Crimson Tide will get plenty of exposure. Playing a national game seemingly every week and two playoff games creates plenty of live opportunities. That didn’t stop OJ Howard from traveling to Mobile for the Senior Bowl to cement his spot as the top of this tight end class.
There aren’t any weaknesses in O.J. Howard’s game. Anything Alabama asked him to do, he did it with a level of professionalism that is transcendent for a 22-year-old kid. During his first three years, he was a seam buster with big play potential. He did average 13.2 yards per catch as a Senior, but Lane Kiffin used him more as a glorified full back.
He rarely lined up on the line scrimmage and frequently pulled across the formation as a lead blocker. He’s tremendous in the running game. He has a burst and stays in control upon contact allowing him to finish his blocks and keep his man engaged until the whistle. He latches those long arms and use his legs to drive through the block.
He is used as a short yardage pass catcher whether it is a misdirection shovel pass inside or a chip and a leak out of the backfield. He did a lot of his work around the line of scrimmage as a run blocker, pass blocker and pass catcher.
He runs smooth routes and can get on top of the linebacker in a heartbeat. He’s a natural hands catcher and will fit in any offense. I don’t suspect he will be available when the Dolphins pick at 22.
Fit: It doesn’t matter; he will work in any offense. With Adam Gase, I envision a supped-up Charles Clay role. You can run 11, 12 and 13 personnel and maintain Howard as a focal point. Wheel routes, seam busters, drive blocking, pulling him in space – whatever you ask, he can do.
David Njoku – Miami, 6’4” – 245 lbs
2016 Volume Stats: 43 receptions, 698 yards, 8 touchdowns
Games: Pittsburgh, Duke, Virginia
A natural glider, inline or flexed out player, David Njoku almost looks like a wide receiver at times. He’s a nightmare for the defense with the ball in his hands. He’s a patient and aware route runner and a willing blocker.
When he hits top speed, linebackers won’t keep up with him and corners bounce off like cartoon characters. He’s incredibly strong at the catch point with exceptional focus in traffic. He’s a rebounder in the end-zone and a deadly red-zone threat (eight touchdowns in 2016.)
He has a good feel for different defensive looks and how to get in-between bracket coverage. On broken, off-script plays, he works back to the quarterback. His hands are solid on all platforms.
At times he looks like a timid blocker, but it can be mistaken for patience. He doesn’t drive block and needs to work on his lower half explosion, but he will redirect and seal the edge. He instantly improves the screen game. Hand placement and technique are strong points of his to compensate for his lack of burst off the ball.
He is a bit of a one year wonder only producing quality numbers in 2016. He has some raw elements to his game, but the upside is through the roof.
Fit: If Kenny Stills walks and Njoku is on the board, he’s a terrific replacement. The offense would obviously change, but he can flex out in the 3×1 sets and immediately improves your screen game both as a receiver and blocker. He would never leave the field and could essentially serve as a receiver in 11 personnel.
Day 2 tight ends coming soon…