O.J. Howard has serious TE1 potential in fantasy working with Tom Brady

Fantasy, Fantasy Football, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady likes to throw to tight ends, which lines O.J. Howard up to become a top-end fantasy option.

Bruce Arians’ Air Coryell-inspired offense has generally avoided the tight end as a notable pass-catching threat, so it was no surprise O.J. Howard had a down year in 2019 (34 receptions for 459 yards and one touchdown in 14 games). But there are reasons for optimism heading into the 2020 season.

Over his first two seasons, Howard had 11 touchdown receptions on 60 total receptions. In 2019, he played 69 percent of Tampa Bay’s offensive snaps, while fellow tight end Cameron Brate played 38 percent of the snaps despite playing all 16 games.

ESPN’s Jenna Laine did a nice deep dive into how Tom Brady can help Howard. Here are some takeaways.

-Since 2001, no quarterback has thrown more yards (16,563) or touchdowns (176) to tight ends. Rob Gronkowski accounted 7,786 of those yards.

-Jameis Winston completed 41.2 percent of his throws to tight ends between the left numbers and hash mark last year. Brady completed 71.4 percent of those same throws last year, and he has a success rate of 70.3 percent on those throws over the last five seasons.

-Piggybacking on that, according to RotoWire’s data, Howard lined up to the left (tight, outside and slot) for 314 snaps in 2019 (40.2 percent of his snaps).

“[Howard’s] eyes should light up,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said, “It’s still going out on the practice field and earning that trust. I think that will be his No. 1 focus. You have a quarterback that likes to throw to tight ends — go earn it and get balls thrown to you.”

In five of seven games from Week 10-16 last year, Howard had at least five targets and more than 7.5 fantasy points (full-point PPR). Over that entire span, he was TE14 in standard and full-point PPR scoring. Narrowing back to the aforementioned five games. Howard’s per game average in full-point PPR (10.7) would have been 11th-best among tight ends over the full season.

An increased target share for Tampa Bay’s tight ends is an obvious assumption with Brady under center. Brate will get some of that, but Howard should continue to play more snaps and clearly take the lead in targets at the position.

Next: Fantasy Football: Tom Brady’s impact on Evans and Godwin

Mike Evans and Chris Godwin should both be top-10 fantasy wide receivers in 2020 with Brady as their quarterback. But Howard may finally have the quarterback to unlock his full potential, and he will be firmly on the draft and auction radar for those who like to wait to get a tight end. His ADP is going to be something to watch, as Brady hype takes effect, but the odds of getting a TE1 (top-12) at a TE2 price seem good.

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