O.J. Howard enters the 2017 NFL Draft widely considered the most complete tight end prospect in recent memory.

The Alabama product’s impressive blend of size and athleticism gives him plenty of upside as a receiver at the next level, and he’s the rare player at the position ready to contribute as an in-line blocker.

One of the lone question marks in his evaluations is the relative lack of production in college. Over his last two seasons in Tuscaloosa, Howard posted 83 receptions for 1,197 yards and five touchdowns.

But with a deeper look at the situation in which he played, teams may not have much to worry about on that front.

In an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday, Alabama head coach Nick Saban explained that Howard’s statistical output would have been far greater were it not for the way the Crimson Tide played.

Analysis from college coaches talking up their alumni should always be taken with a grain of salt, as they’d likely do anything they can to help the player and the program. Saban has a point, though.

With a run-oriented offense, and some less-than-stellar play from the quarterback position, Howard’s rare ability to play on the line of scrimmage and contribute as a de facto sixth offensive lineman was key to Alabama’s national title bids.

Now making the transition to what’s becoming an increasingly pass-happy NFL, he should have every opportunity to see his production skyrocket.

The well-balanced skill set seemingly has Howard locked in as a first-round pick, and many have forecast that he’ll end up the highest-drafted tight end since Vernon Davis went sixth overall in 2006.

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