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How Tom Brady at the helm of the Buccaneers' offense can rescue O.J. Howard

Former first-round draft pick O.J. Howard is on the verge of bust status right now, but the two things preventing it from already being set in stone is his 89.1 PFF grade in 2018 and the arrival of a new quarterback — the greatest of all time — to Tampa Bay this offseason.

Howard was PFF’s top-ranked and highest-graded tight end in college the year he came out, and he settled at No. 18 on our final Big Board, just behind DeShaun Watson and Christian McCaffrey.

Here’s what we said about him at the time:

“O.J. Howard owns a unique blend of size and athleticism that is simply coveted in today’s NFL at the tight end position. Howard was PFF’s top-graded college tight end this past season, and it’s tough to find any major red flags in his game. He’s an athletic mismatch, capable of taking advantage of smaller defensive backs while having the speed and quickness to consistently separate from linebackers; he has sure hands, as he’s recorded just six total drops over the last three seasons. Howard has also graded positively as a run blocker in each of the last three seasons, including 2016 when he earned the highest run-blocking grade among tight ends.”

That didn’t translate to immediate NFL success, but rookie tight ends often struggle to seamlessly transition to a league that still expects many of them to block defensive linemen in the run game.

Indeed, while running backs can reach the NFL and pick up pretty much where they left off in college, tight ends often experience the roughest rookie years of any position:

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