The Fantasy Spotlight Player Preview series focuses on players that are primed to make a fantasy impact in 2017. This week we focus on Chicago Bears second year running back Jordan Howard.
Fantasy Spotlight 2017 Player Preview: Jordan Howard
The Chicago Bears drafted Jordan Howard as the 150th overall pick in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Howard had just completed a 1,213 yard rushing season at the University of Indiana. With Matt Forte signing with the New York Jets during free agency, the Bears needed to add depth behind unproven running backs Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey. According to NFL.com, Howard possessed a draft grade of 6.1. His grade was third for running backs, behind only Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry. Elliott and Henry were the top two running backs selected in the draft. Howard was the tenth running back selected in 2016. On May 9, 2016, Howard signed a four year, $2.58 million contract with the Bears.
Howard impressed the Bears brass right away in the Preseason. Showing great ball handling ability, as well as great evasiveness. During the Bears Preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns, Howard rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown solidifying his roster spot. Heading into week one, Howard was listed third on the depth chart behind both Langford and Carey. The Bears rookie was inactive for the first game of the season. However, Howard would be activated week two against the Philadelphia Eagles, a game in which he carried the ball three times for 22 yards. After amassing 92 total yards in a week three loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Howard then took advantage of injuries to both Langford and Carey and showed off his abilities in his first career start week four against the Detroit Lions.
In the Bears 17-14 win at home, Howard was sharp rushing for 111 yards on 23 carries. He also caught three passes for 21 yards. The Bears rookie running back followed up his debut performance with 163 total yards (118 rushing) and his first career touchdown, a 21-yard reception in the Bears week five loss to the Indianapolis Colts. His first career rushing touchdown was scored week six against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Howard’s most impressive performance came week eight against the third ranked Minnesota Vikings defense. With 202 total yards (153 rushing), Howard made a statement that he was here to stay. He was named the NFC’s offensive player of the week for that performance. Howard finished the season with seven 100+ yard rushing games. His 1,313 rushing yards were second to fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott. He became only the fifth rookie running back in Bears history to crack 1,000 yards rushing and only the second to be named to the Pro Bowl, Gale Sayers being the first.
2017 Fantasy Impact
According to playerprofiler.com; Howard finished in the top ten in four major categories, rushing yards (2nd), big runs (3rd), evaded tackles (6th) and fantasy points (9th). Fellow Lastwordonprofootball.com fantasy writer Mike Randle recently participated in a 12-team PPR (points per reception) mock draft on FantasyPros. Howard was taken with the first pick in the second round (13th overall). As Expected Elliott, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell were drafted first, second and third respectively. At 13th overall, Howard was the seventh running back selected. Devonta Freeman was picked seventh overall with LeSean McCoy and Melvin Gordon going tenth and 12th. While there is no debating the top three, a case most certainly can be made for Howard to be drafted as high as fourth overall for running backs. Jordan Howard enters the 2017 season as the unquestioned number one running back in Chicago. Without question Howard needs to improve on his pass catching skills (caught only 58% of targets in 2016). By doing that he will be a huge PPR asset in fantasy leagues for 2017.
2017 Fantasy Spotlight Projections:
Rushing- 319 carries/1506 yards/10 touchdowns
Receiving- 41 receptions/367 yards/3 touchdowns