Jordan Howard Outlook: Top Tier Running Back

Jordan Howard Outlook: Top Tier Running Back

Jordan Howard will be a perennial top 12 fantasy football RB with the Philadelphia Eagles.


After being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, there seems to be mixed emotions within the fantasy football community about Jordan Howard’s value and future outlook. If you are currently sitting on the fence, I’m here to explain why I think you should be all-in on Howard.

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Past Production

2016

Starting the year using Jeremy Langford as their lead back (LOL), the Bears handed Howard the reins after Langford injured his ankle 3 games into the season. He was already outplaying Langford and continued to break out in 2016 rifling off 1,313 yards at a 5.8 yard/attempt per clip. Not too shabby rook!  Plenty of fantasy owners grabbed him from the waiver wire and rode him to fantasy championships. If you found yourself succumbing to “Alvin Kamara syndrome” and drafted him but didn’t hang on, sorry ’bout your damn luck. The 5th round rookie from Indiana was just about the lone bright spot of an offensively injury plagued 3-13 team.

2017

2017 brought about some important additions on offense. Plus, the cat was out of the bag – Jordan Howard is god (*good)! Enter rookie QB Mitch Trubisky and rookie RB Tarik Cohen. Still under the archaic reign of dinosaur head coach John Fox, the Bears performance as a team did not improve much despite the influx of talent and excitement on the offensive side of the ball. Howard saw his number of carries increase only 7% to 276, despite starting 3 more games. He finished with 1,122 yards at a 4.1 average and 9 TDs playing behind a good, but not great, offensive line. A bit of a sophomore slump, but still productive season nonetheless.

2018

A new head coach in Matt Nagy brought along an offense worthy of operating in this decade. By the end of the year, the writing seemed to be on the wall. Nagy wanted needed someone a bit more versatile than Howard to compliment the electric Cohen. This year, behind one of the best defenses in the NFL and the 2nd most pass attempts during his tenure, Howard ran for just 935 yards at a 3.7 average but had another 9 TDs. I think this proves he has a proverbial “nose for the end zone”. Some players just don’t fit well with certain coaches and I think that’s what happened last year with Jordan Howard and Nagy. To an extent, he telegraphed his offense when Howard was on the field. Opposing NFL teams/defenses don’t take long to catch on. Trending down now 2 years in a row, a change of scenery may do him good…

E-A-G-L-E-S

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RB Stats under Doug Pederson

Seemingly the biggest argument against believing in Howard as a top 12 fantasy option with the Eagles is head coach Doug Pederson. People will scream and shout RBBC (running back by committee) until they are blue in the face. And that used to be a fair concern. Let’s look at overall rushing stats under Pederson.

2016

Shockingly, Ryan Mathews only made it through 8 games. Leaving the burden of the rushing assignments to Darren Sproles and rookie Wendell Smallwood. Still, the Eagles finished 11th in yards with 1,813 at a 4.1 average (17th). They were also 12th in TDs with 16. Pederson was off to a promising start with the rushing offense as he proved he was going to run the ball despite being a rookie head coach, with a rookie QB, and a severely depleted RB corps who saw an undersized receiving back and 5th round rookie shoulder the load for half the season. The Eagles rounded out the top 10 in attempts with 438 (only 13% difference to the #1 ranked team in attempts – Dallas at 499).

2017

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YES, YES, YES! Ok full disclosure, I’m a Philly fan. I wasn’t born one, but I developed into one and I’ve seen what these people have been through with this team. This was one of the most memorable, amazing sports moments and years I personally experienced.

Back to stats! Begone Fragile Mathews. Enter: two TANKS in LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi (5.8 avg w/ Birds). As a team, the Eagles pounded opponents and had a pre-injury MVP year from Carson Wentz. Finishing 3rd in yards with 2,115 was a true testament of what Doug Pederson could accomplish with actual talent (and we’re talking about Blount & Ajayi here). The Eagles were 6th in attempts this year, up to 473 and averaged 4.5 yards per attempt (3rd!!). Only scoring 9 rushing TDs as a team was a bit of a mystery, considering the uptick in attempts and massive amount of yards. I would consider this a bit of an anomaly and chalk it up to the remarkable step forward that Wentz took in his play and Doug loosening his leash. Still, one of the best team rushing performances the Eagles had seen since the Shady McCoy years.

2018

A difficult part of the game, Blount left in free agency. That left the cupboard pretty bare, especially when Ajayi went down early in the year. The team just wasn’t right. Wentz wasn’t fully recovered and the defense seemed to have lost a step after being decimated by injuries. Not to mention Sproles went down, again. A three headed committee of Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement (also eventually lost to injury) and undrafted rookie Josh Adams were all that was left. I won’t sugarcoat it, the rushing stats for this year are putrid. Yards – 1,570 (28th); Attempts – 398 (20th); Avg – 3.9 (30th); TDs – 12 (22nd) – YUCK. However, do I have to reiterate who was running the ball?

I don’t want to hear about your love for Josh Adams. He is a JAG (just a guy). He performed OK and was barely serviceable as the starter (4.3 avg). If he had pulled a JORDAN HOWARD and took a stranglehold of the job earlier in the year, then the Eagles wouldn’t have gone and acquired JORDAN HOWARD! Oh, he didn’t get a chance or any carries you say? HE’S NOT THAT GOOD AND NEVER SHOWED ENOUGH IN CAMP OR PRACTICE TO EARN A MORE CARRIES. Rant over.

WHY WHY WHY

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After all this, you may see where I am going as to why I believe in Howard, especially this year (we’ll get to long term outlook shortly). Yes, I’m going to cherry pick the best of both worlds and believe Howard can return to his 2016 form when he was in Chicago, and apply that potential to Doug’s best year of team rushing in 2017. That is an incredibly reasonable train of thought. We all know he doesn’t catch the ball, which is why I haven’t included any RB receiving stats. I’m looking at just rushing and if he catches 20 balls or so, that’s all gravy.

Howard historically has received around a 60% snap share so far during his career. I think based on that applied to Doug’s rushing ceiling, Howard can easily achieve a floor of 1,200 yards and between 7-12 TDs. Those are RB1 numbers. Reason why? Look at that 2018 Eagles stable. ZERO competition for a warrior like Howard who hasn’t missed a game due to injury.

When Doug has talented, HEALTHY backs, he gives them the rock! And the RBBC talk? I believe Howard is so much better and talented than the likes of Smallwood, Clement, and Adams, that he will reduce them to 3rd down or change of pace backs. Running behind a top 10 offensive line, on a high-scoring, high-powered offense which will likely experience positive game scripts more often than not. Jordan Howard is literally walking into the perfect storm for RB1 production. I’m really not concerned about the lack of receiving skills, at all. You can grab the stud returning to his former glory in round 4-5 in redraft and even later in dynasty startups.

Future

Jordan Howard is still very young (will turn 25 midway through the 2019 season) and only entering his 4th year. He was traded for a 2020 sixth round pick, which could become a 5th round pick based on production. So a 5th round pick it is! If Howard proves himself and has a monster year (which he will), I firmly believe Howie will reward him with a fair market contract, which isn’t very expensive these days for running backs.

Many people believe the Eagles will look to this year’s draft to bolster their RB corps. I am only partially in agreement with this. I absolutely think they will draft at least 1, possibly 2 running backs. But not with the capital that most believe they will. Primarily because this particular class isn’t incredibly talented.

I recently traded my 2019 1st (1.07) and a 2021 2nd for Howard and am very pleased. You may be able to get him for cheaper. In a dynasty startup you can likely get him as cheap as round 7 or 8 but as August and September approach I’d expect you’ll have to grab him in the 4th-5th-or 6th at the latest. Jordan Howard’s ability to stay healthy, potential to average close to 5.0 yards/carry, and nose for the end zone all point to the fact that the Eagles have found their man at RB for right now and the foreseeable future.

Follow me on Twitter @OnJawn for lots of spicy fantasy football takes, drunk tweets, and random thoughts about life that happen to pop into my head.