Best of the Rest: Jordan Howard

We all know the fantasy football drill when it comes to drafting running backs — grab David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliot early if you’re lucky enough to have a Top-3 pick.

However, not everyone gets an early pick, which usually resorts to going away from running backs (“Zero RB strategy”) and looking toward other top position players like Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones or Mike Evans. Enter Jordan Howard, the best of the rest.

If you slept through 2016 or completely missed the drop on Jordan Howard, only Ezekiel Elliot rushed for more yards than his rookie counterpart during the regular season. Zeke clocked a league-leading 1,631 yards, while Howard held tight to the number two spot with 1,313 yards and had a higher per carry average (5.2). Howard, the 22-year old back out of Alabama didn’t even start the 2016 NFL season and appeared to be a last minute experiment by the Chicago Bears coaching staff after the Jeremy Langford project went awry. That being said, Howard still rushed for more yards than Matt Forte did (1,238) in his 2008 rookie season. If Howard notches another solid showing of 250 rushing attempts and 30+ receptions, bad team or not, this is a kid that you want on your roster.

I’d draft Jordan Howard before Melvin Gordan, Devonta Freeman, Eddie Lacy, Jay Ajayi, DeMarco Murray and possibly LeSean McCoy. If I happened to land a late round pick in a 10-or-12 team league, then I’d either take Howard late in the first round, or early in the second round after an elite WR. Some might consider this a reach, but Howard seems like a player that’s poised to build off of his already productive rookie season.

More than his stats show, Jordan Howard looked like a superstar in-action last season. The 6-foot-1, 222-pound back not only broke tackle-after-tackle and got to the second-level easily, but he also proved to be very shifty in tight spaces and tough-as-nails when it came to shaking off what looked to be several injuries during in-game situations. He showed that he’s an all-weather running back by notching big yards in the worst of field conditions. Additionally, Howard seems to possess a very Barry Sanders-like humbleness to his game and let’s his running do the talking inside the lines. This is an often overlooked attribute because you want to draft guys that the coaches trust, which often translates to more opportunities during the game.

While David Johnson is more of an ultimate warrior type running back that can do all things, I liken Jordan Howard’s game to that of Le’Veon Bell. Both have a very good read of the field, are shifty, and very deceptive given their size relative to their ability to slow down the game and shoot the gaps. While we likely won’t see Howard lining up at wide receiver, he’s proven to have some pretty good hands taking check-down passes. Word has it that Howard spent the better parts of his offseason working on acceleration.

The Chicago Bears have a pretty good stable of running backs in Jeremy Langford, Benny Cunningham, Tarik Cohen and Ka’Deem Carey. Aside from Cohen potentially taking some passes out of the backfield, this job very much belongs to Jordan Howard. With the likes of Cameron Meredith and Markus Wheaton opening up the field a bit, and Victor Cruz running routes underneath, I look for Howard to have plenty of opportunities to show why he’s the best of the rest. Draft him with confidence.

(This article was originally published on July 22, 2017)