Why Jordan Howard is Being Overvalued in Fantasy Football
Jordan Howard wants to lead the NFL in rushing yards. He is working on his speed, underwent vision surgery, and expects a larger role in the passing game in 2017. Sounds like a confident player, but also one who is willing to acknowledge his shortcomings. I like that, so I was eager to dig into the film here.
The Bears surprisingly had one of the better run-blocking offensive lines in the league in 2016, especially on the interior with Kyle Long, Josh Sitton, and Cody Whitehair. Howard was near the top of the league in breakaway runs and yards after contact last season. Things didn't go as well for Howard as a receiver, though -- he lead all running backs in dropped passes.
Going into this season, Howard will enter a lackluster situation. The Bears offense will be led by either Mike Glennon or Mitch Trubisky and lost playmaker Alshon Jeffery in the offseason. Intuitively, it’s tough to predict an abundance of positive game script situations, favorable defensive fronts, or high-value red zone touches for Howard, so it looks as if his fantasy value will be mostly volume-based
The Bears backfield lacks a clear number-two option. Jeremy Langford, Benny Cunningham, Ka’Deem Carey, and rookie Tarik Cohen are all vying for touches (and roster spots). You can read that list in whichever order you'd like, because your guess as to the order of the depth chart behind Howard is as good as mine.
Steve Andress has already done a great job of highlighting why he feels Howard has a solid floor, but I have doubts regarding Howard's ceiling.
Can Howard improve in the passing game, or will his lack of versatility in that area limit his fantasy upside?
Howard's Rushing Expectation charting, which balances metrics with film evaluation (one of the toughest things to do in fantasy football), will provide some clues as to how to attack the Bears' backfield in 2017 fantasy drafts.
Rushing Expectation: Jordan Howard
Howard's burst is adequate at best and he has marginal speed, but he makes up for it with good patience between the tackles and above-average power. His strength is especially evident in short-yardage situations, which is likely why the majority of his runs went between the tackles.
Howard has very good pad level, so his rare balance through contact makes a lot of sense; his 93rd-percentile yards after contact average rivals two backs I’m extremely high on: Jay Ajayi (98th) and Ty Montgomery (96th).
However, with eight egregious drops on 22 targets, it’s tough to grade Howard with anything more than minimal skills in the passing game (an area in which both Ajayi and Montgomery are very good). For what it’s worth, Howard underwent LASIK eye surgery in the offseason, but it’s just hard to envision his feet-like hands softening up significantly enough for him to be a factor as a receiver.
Howard's struggles in the passing game are well documented, but the Bears' offensive line actually had a strong overall Expected Success Rate of 48.5 percent when running backs were targeted, third-highest in the league. In the run game, the Bears were also well above average with an Expected Success Rate of 46.9 percent, eighth-highest in the league.
Given these conditions, perhaps Howard’s “great" rookie season was slightly overstated.
I will continue to stress that Expected Success Rate is an insanely useful metric because it does a great job separating a running back's performance from that of his blocking; in Howard's case, his blocking was above average according to Adjusted Line Yard numbers.
Howard also finished in the 54th percentile in yards before contact, which is solid, but definitely not as high as I would like to see from a feature back with above-average athletic ability and strong offensive line play.
Continue reading for Jordan Howard’s Overall Analysis and whether he's worth his early-round ADP...
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