Jordan Howard Will Be an RB1 This Year (Fantasy Football)
Let me start off by saying I am a huge fan of analytics. I believe that athletic players tend to have a greater chance of success in the NFL. I am also a big fan of college production. A player who demonstrated college dominance tends to have an easier time translating his production to the next level.
Despite my love for the athletic, college superstar, I have also learned that there is an even more important indicator for breeding success: volume. Volume stems from opportunity.
A player can get opportunities in a variety of ways. He could be traded to a better situation. He could be called upon after an injury to another player. He could be the beneficiary of a favorable game script. No matter what catalyst thrusts opportunity upon a player, it is really up to that player to take that opportunity and literally run with it.
Now that we are a few months away from the start of the 2018 NFL season, it is time to look at a running back that will get more opportunity. Barring any additions or significant changes in the Chicago Bears backfield, Jordan Howard should get an uptick in volume, despite his pass catching deficiencies. If he can manufacture that increased volume into production, there is no doubt he will be an RB1.
Bullish on the Bears
Let’s face it, the Chicago Bears for the past three seasons under coach John Fox have been awful. During that span, their record was 14 wins and 34 loses. Now that Fox is gone, Matt Nagy comes in at the best time possible, since there isn’t anywhere to go but up.
During this offseason, he has brought in a smorgasbord of talent to upgrade the offense. With the additions of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton to bolster up the receiving corps for sophomore quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears have shown that they mean business.
They had a great draft too, at least on paper, selecting the top-rated college center, James Daniels, early in the second round to improve their offensive line. As a bonus, the Bears drafted one of highest ranked wide receivers, Anthony Miller, 12 picks later. In the past two years in all of college, no one had more receiving yards (2,896) or touchdowns (31) than Miller. And best of all, he’s not a developmental prospect; he’s NFL ready now. Plus, Chicago continued to invest in their already stout defense by selecting four players, including ESPN’s fifth overall ranked prospect, Roquan Smith, in the first round.
Most importantly, Chicago did not draft a rookie running back, which means Howard escaped the peril of having to compete for his job. Tarik Cohen proved to be an exciting, change of pace receiving back in his rookie season, but he is no threat to Howard because of his size and different strengths. He is Howard’s third-down complement.
If Mitchell Trubisky can live up to the first-round hype, then look for the Bears to at least have a winning season and perhaps even get close to making the playoffs. It that happens, then it means they will be ahead in more games and therefore will run the ball more.
If they run the ball more, then it sets up the ideal scenario for Howard. He will be utilized more in the fourth quarter as the grinder used to run down the clock. He will get more garbage time yards and touchdowns and thus, will see his fantasy points increase. This is a situation Howard is not familiar with since the Bears have had to rely on the passing game to dig them out of games.
Bear in Mind, Howard has Always Been an RB1
Predicting that Howard will be an RB1 in 2018 might seem like a hot take, but in actuality, Howard has been a top 10 fantasy running back in standard leagues since entering the NFL two years ago. According to FantasyPros, Howard was the 10th best fantasy running back last year and was the ninth best in 2016. In PPR leagues, Howard finished 14th in 2017 and tenth in 2016.
Howard’s dip in the PPR running back rankings last year was primarily due to the Bears having a better pass catcher in Tarik Cohen. It is expected that Cohen will be used even more in 2018.
So how can I plead the case for Jordan Howard as a PPR RB1 in 2018 when won’t be heavily used in the passing game? It is simple.
If the Bears have the offense I think they will have under Nagy, then Howard will get more carries and touchdowns. He will get a fantasy bump based on his volume as a runner. In 2017, Chicago had a total of 422 team run plays, which was 18th in the league. Look for that to increase this year based on a team that will be leading in the fourth quarter.
It is feasible that Howard could eclipse 300 touches and score double-digit touchdowns. Last year, Chicago had the sixth best red zone scoring percentage converting nearly 61% of their opportunities.
The problem was they didn’t make it to the red zone often, finishing 31st out of 32 teams. Last year, Howard had only five red zone carries (24th in the league). By having an improved offense in 2018, look for the Bears to visit the red zone more often, and expect Howard to convert many of the opportunities into touchdowns.
Take Advantage of His Unbearable ADP
As Jordan Howard enters 2018, his ADP is low. According to MyFantasyLeague, Howard is ranked as the 15th best running back in both standard and PPR leagues. This is great news for fantasy owners because his ADP is low.
Despite playing on an anemic offense for the past two years, Howard still managed to be a very productive RB1. And now that Chicago looks to improve their offense immensely, Howard should become even more productive and efficient. Therefore, by having him ranked outside the top 12 is incredibly advantageous because he will fall in drafts. If anything, he should rank higher assuming the Bears will have a better season this year.
Bearing Fruit at a Discount
Chicago’s offense is going to be more productive and efficient this year. Last year, the Bears ran the second fewest plays on offense (934) next to the Cincinnati Bengals. Chicago will throw the ball more but they will remain a cautious, run-first team.
Having a decent pass attack will also enable the Bears’ run game to be more efficient. So look for Jordan Howard to absorb more touches, get more yards, average more per carry, and score more touchdowns.
He might be the most athletic running back out there. Sure, he is not the complete back that Le’Veon Bell is, but as a between the tackles grinder, Howard is good at what he does and will get more volume than he did in 2017. Therefore, Jordon Howard will be an RB1 for a third consecutive year and will score more fantasy points. With a devalued ADP, he will be a fantasy bargain.
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