Friday is decision day in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Nope, this isn’t a conversation about recruiting visits or which coach is talking to which elite high school athlete (although with 19 days until National Signing Day, the furious pace with which conversations about high-schoolers declaring their intent to a school will not only accelerate, but become more interesting too), the news Friday will revolve around whether or not Alabama’s draft-eligible underclassmen will stay in school for another year or turn pro (the decisions will be made public during a press conference at 3 p.m. ET).
Two bits of media news caught my eye Thursday on one of Alabama’s stars pondering the jump to the NFL.
My colleague here at SEC Country, Jay Clemons, offered his take on Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard.
“Howard likely won’t replicate the single-game insanity of 200-plus yards and two touchdowns as a senior. As such, it makes sense to turn pro off his career-best outing,” Clemons offered as a George Costanza tried and true method of leaving the room on a high note. The “room” in this case is Bryant-Denny Stadium and his Alabama football career.
That makes complete sense. Why risk injury with another season in Tuscaloosa? If Howard’s eight combined catches for 267 yards and two scores over his final two games of 2015 – College Football Playoff wins over Michigan State and Clemson – is enough to make NFL teams forget that he only had 30 grabs for 335 yards and zero touchdowns in the 10 games prior, than Howard should absolutely hop into the NFL draft.
But it’s more than just about numbers with Howard, according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who believes Howard’s draft stock is extremely high.
“I think he’s right now the second-best, draft-eligible tight end,” Kiper said on a conference call Thursday. “Doesn’t mean he’ll come out. I haven’t heard yet on Howard whether he’s coming out or staying, but he could be the second tight end off the board.”
That would be a huge landing spot for Howard. Kiper predicted Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry would be the top pick at tight end in the 2016 NFL Draft, but even that isn’t a solid with Howard’s upside.
“With Howard having that strong workout, you would expect with a kid his size and his physicality and the way he finished, you remember what you saw last,” said Kiper. “You saw a chance to be a heck of a weapon in the NFL. I would think he could be a second-rounder, who could be the No. 2 tight end off the board, if not maybe the first tight end off the board.”
In the matter of a few breaths, Kiper teeter-tottered his opinion on Howard. Is Alabama’s championship-game hero potentially the top draft-eligible tight end or the second best?
Howard shouldn’t stick around in the college ranks to find out.
- Kiper: Alabama QB Jake Coker’s NFL draft stock improved greatly during College Football Playoff
- Mel Kiper believes Ole Miss star Laremy Tunsil could “be a complete left tackle” in the NFL
- Alabama RB Derrick Henry does not have ‘enough wiggle,’ gets third-round NFL grade from Mel Kiper, Jr.
- Kiper on Laquon Treadwell’s top-10 draft stock: ‘He’s got to run well enough to warrant being that high’
- Mel Kiper mock draft confirms: Ole Miss star Robert Nkemdiche’s NFL prospects slipping
- Mel Kiper mock draft: 4 Alabama players land in Top 20