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Why Jordan Howard Will Be A Top-25 RB (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Kyle Yates | @KyleYNFL | Featured Writer
Jun 10, 2020

Throughout the offseason, Kyle Yates will be highlighting several marquee fantasy players as he walks through his projection process. These projections are subject to change based on injuries, signings above/below them on the depth chart, new information regarding scheme or player usage, etc. They’ll serve as a way to give a “peek behind the curtain” into Kyle’s projections thought process and whether or not a player will be a fantasy value in 2020.

In this article, we look at how Jordan Howard is well-positioned to finish as a top-25 RB in 2020.

Jordan Howard

Occasionally, we’ll see players enter the NFL and immediately exceed their draft stock and expectations. Jordan Howard was one of those players back in 2016. He was drafted in the 5th round by the Chicago Bears and made an immediate impact in his rookie season by rushing for 1,313 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Did you know that there are only three other players in the past decade that have as many rushing yards and touchdowns as Howard in their first four seasons? Those players are Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley, and Arian Foster. That’s it.

Howard is an incredibly talented running back with underrated vision and he now finds himself as a lead back again in Miami. While Matt Breida is there, he’s more of a change-of-pace back that will come in primarily on third-downs and provide a different running style than what Howard brings to the table.

This is Howard’s backfield and the Dolphins made some drastic improvements to the offensive line this offseason. There aren’t many backs in the NFL that are going to see the workload that Howard will have this season, but will it be enough to vault him into a consistent fantasy starter? I believe so.

Projections

The Dolphins were absolutely atrocious last season when it came to their running game. Ryan Fitzpatrick was the team’s leading rusher last year if that tells you anything, but their porous offensive line was largely to blame. The Dolphins have now completely revamped this offensive line and have brought in some very talented, high-upside players. While it will take some time for them to click as a unit, they’ll certainly be an upgrade over who the Dolphins were trotting out there last season.

If you analyze the players they brought in though, you’ll notice that these are big interior offensive lineman that are factors in the run game. Robert Hunt has a mean streak and can move defensive lineman off the ball, Solomon Kindley is 337 pounds and helped create huge running lanes for D’Andre Swift last year at Georgia, and Austin Jackson is a good run-blocker in his own right. The Dolphins went in with a very specific plan on how to revamp their offensive line and they went for size and run-blocking prowess.

With head coach Brian Flores being a defensive-minded coach, they’re going to want to rely on their run game and their defense to help control the clock. Last season, due to the deficiencies of the run game and their incompetent defense, they ranked 32nd in overall rushing attempts and were forced to throw the ball more than they would’ve liked.

With the addition of Howard, and the renovation of this defense with some key players, their rushing attempts are bound to come back up. In 2019, they ran the ball a mere 349 times. This season, I’m comfortable projecting a large increase to 430 attempts on the ground, which is more in line with where this team wants to be from a philosophy standpoint.

With that number in mind, it’s arguably reasonable to break down the total attempts with the following carry percentages…

  • Howard: 55% (237 attempts)
  • Breida: 30% (129 attempts)
  • Patrick Laird: 5% (22 attempts)
  • Fitzpatrick: 10% (43 attempts)

Those carry percentages break down to Howard receiving an average of 14.7 carries per game, while Breida receives 8.06 carries per game. Up to this point in his career, Howard has averaged 4.3 yards per carry and that’s around where I feel comfortable projecting him this season. If we take his estimated rushing attempts, which is 237, and factor in a 4.4 yards per carry, he finishes the season with 1,041 rushing yards.

If we now look at expected TD rate, which calculates the league average for how many yards a running back had per touchdown last season, we’re able to project a baseline for Howard’s rushing TD totals. In 2019, a RB averaged a touchdown score on every 135.5 yards. With that number in mind, Howard’s expected TD rate comes out to be 8 touchdowns on the ground. While he scored 6 touchdowns last season in only 10 games with the Eagles, I don’t expect this offense to be towards the top of the league in scoring output. If that’s the case, Howard’s going to have a tough time getting to that 8 rushing TD threshold. I’m comfortable projecting him with 7 rushing touchdowns, which is still a good output for a RB.

This gives Howard a rushing stat line of 237 carries for 1,041 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns. With Breida in town, Howard’s not going to be asked to catch the ball much out of the backfield, which is one of his deficiencies, so I have him projected for a modest 5% target share.

Fantasy Outlook

Due to Howard’s lack of involvement in the passing game, he has a capped ceiling and is unlikely to finish the season as a top-15 RB. However, he’s an incredibly safe floor player that you can comfortably roll out as a RB2 each and every week, in my opinion. He’s currently going as the RB39 in ADP Consensus and he’s ranked as the RB34 in ECR. This indicates that the general fantasy player is completely off of Howard for this season, which means that you’re going to be able to get him late in your drafts. If you want to load up on WRs early, Howard’s a perfect pick in the middle rounds and one who is guaranteed to see carries this season.

It might not feel great, but your mindset should be to assemble the best team possible in your drafts. If you can add Howard as your RB3, or potentially even RB4, you’re setting your team up with some fantastic depth. The ceiling isn’t particularly there for Howard this season, but this Dolphins team is going to be much different than what we saw in 2019 and Howard’s going to be a key part of it. He sits decimal points outside of the Top-25 RBs in my season long rankings and you need to make sure you look Howard’s way in your drafts.

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Kyle Yates is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Kyle, check out his archive and follow him @KyleYNFL.

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