A look at what fantasy owners should expect out of Jordan Howard in 2017.
There wasn’t a more pleasant fantasy surprise than Jordan Howard in 2016. Only a fifth round pick in the 2016 draft, Howard wasn’t even the team’s starting running back in week one. By the end of September, he was chewing up yardage and gave the Chicago Bears’ struggling offense a big boost.
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Fantasy owners were rewarded for any patience they showed with Howard. If they drafted him late and held onto him, he is the type of late round pick that can propel owners to championships. If you were smart and scooped him up off the waiver wire before anyone else, consider yourself fortunate. Despite not playing the first few games of the season, Howard finished second in the league in rushing behind fellow rookie Zeke Elliott.
Will Howard be as successful in year two or is he headed to a sophomore slump? That’s going to be the question for all fantasy owners as they prepare to draft in August. Howard is no longer a sleeper. As a fantasy owner, you are either going to ride or die with him because Howard ran his way into becoming a consensus first round fantasy pick this season.
Everywhere you look, Howard is considered a top ten pick. Most experts have him listed among the top five running backs. But is Howard worth that type of commitment on your fantasy roster?
Fantasy is about opportunity and Howard will get plenty of that in 2017. He won’t have much competition behind him. The Bears currently have Jeremy Langford, Benny Cunningham, Ka’Deem Carey and Tarik Cohen as his potential backups. None of them have the talent to push Howard and unseat him as the team’s 3-down back. Cohen has the best potential to steal snaps from him, but he will be a change-of-pace back. He won’t replace Howard, he may just compliment him.
Up front, the Bears offensive line is better than people think. The interior with Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair and Kyle Long is as good as any trio in the league when they are all healthy. Charles Leno is serviceable at left tackle, and while Bobby Massie struggled in pass protection at times, he’s a solid run blocker. The biggest question for Howard’s second-year success is quarterback.
We know the Bears want to avoid playing Mitch Trubisky as long as they can and if Mike Glennon is a disaster, the Bears might have to either ride it out with Glennon or give Connor Shaw or Mark Sanchez the ball. Glennon should be good enough to keep the pressure off the running game, but if the Bears passing game fails, teams will stack the box and stop Howard before he gains any momentum.
Overall, Howard shouldn’t struggle in his second year. Knowing he should get twenty touches a game combined with the fact that his offensive line is solid should be enough of a recipe for him to keep moving forward all season long. Howard did have a lofty 5.2 YPC last year, and while that might decrease some, there’s no reason to think his production will plummet. Howard should be a safe late first round pick and a reliable back for your fantasy team. He’s a must keep in keeper leagues and a no-brainer in dynasty leagues. As a fantasy owner, you can bank on Howard, you won’t be disappointed.
2017 Jordan Howard Projections: 272 carries, 1306 yards, 4.8 YPC, 8 TDs, 37 catches, 380 yards, 2 TDs