Tampa Bay Buccaners general manager Jason Licht is eternally grateful that he got his man, O.J. Howard, with the 19th overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Howard was billed by some as the best tight end prospect to enter the league since Rob Gronkowski and Licht believed that the former Alabama prospect would’ve been selected well before the Buccaneers had a chance.

“We thought he could go as high as six,” Licht said of Howard to The MMQB’s Albert Breer. “And from what I heard from sources, that very well could’ve happened. But the Jets, unexpectedly, got their safety when Adams fell to them. I’m not saying I know for sure the Jets were taking him, but that looked like a landing spot for him.

“And then, he was linked to every single team between them and us at some point. I was afraid that, even if a team didn’t need a tight end, he was just the best available player, the you-can’t-pass-on-him type of guy … We were just fortunate.”

Licht said he received praise across the league for selecting Howard.

“I got a lot of texts from other personnel guys and GMs saying ‘awesome pick,’ ‘great pick,’ ‘we had him in the second round,'” Licht said. “He’s one of those guys, once you get to a certain point in the draft, it doesn’t surprise you when guys go a little earlier than you thought. And it doesn’t surprise you when guys go a little later.”

The Buccaneers’ passing game will be a lot more dynamic with Howard on board, joining Mike Evans and newly signed DeSean Jackson in the offense.

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