Matt Nagy’s arrival and a slew of new receiving options in Chicago brought up significant concerns about Bears running back Jordan Howard’s compatibility in the pass-heavy offensive system. However, as the offseason continues and fantasy football drafts draw nearer, the pessimism surrounding the third-year back is simmering down.
In two years as the starting running back in Chicago, Howard has accounted for 580 touches, 2,858 yards and 16 touchdowns totaling 377.8 fantasy points in standard leagues. Howard’s Achilles heel are his hands, which lowers his value in all forms of PPR leagues.
Throughout his career, he’s struggled to catch the football out of the backfield and lost receiving opportunities to Tarik Cohen. Last season, Howard caught an abysmal 23 passes for 125 yards and zero touchdowns. This was a steep drop from an unimpressive stat line in 2016, where he hauled in 29 receptions for 298 yards and one touchdown.
Howard recognized this weakness and is now worked to improve as a pass-catcher while at training camp. Cohen will undoubtedly be the frontrunner for reception duties out of the backfield, but coach Nagy has stated he believes Howard can be a three-down back for the Bears in 2018.
Coach Nagy’s offense utilizes speed, deception and a strong aerial attack to win against opposing defenses. Pair that with a revamped receiver corps, which includes Allen Robinson’s presence as a deep threat, and you get more open running lanes for Howard.
In 2017, Howard saw eight or more men in the box 43 percent of the time, second-most in the league behind Leonard Fournette. Howard still averaged 4.1 yards per carry in a predictable offense led by Dowell Loggains.
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Not only was the offense predictable, but the offensive line was in shambles. A healthy line in front of him, and the addition of offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, increases the potential for Howard having a rebound year.
It’s fair to compare Howard’s potential to Kareem Hunt’s rookie season in Kansas City. Hunt only faced stacked fronts 24 percent of the time while Matt Nagy was the offensive coordinator. The Chiefs’ running back had an extremely effective rookie season, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and finished as the third-highest scoring running back in standard leagues, fourth in PPR.
Here’s how his rookie season compares to Howard’s first season as an NFL player.
Howard saw an increased amount of rushing attempts in his second season, but couldn’t reach the 5.2 yards per carry posted during his rookie campaign. If Howard can replicate Hunt’s success in Nagy’s system, even if he only accounts for half the receiving stats, there’s a chance the Bears’ running back finishes as a top-12 fantasy running back in both standard and PPR leagues.
Howard is widely considered a back-end RB1 with more value in standard leagues than leagues that award points for receptions. He will be the workhorse and a goalline presence for an offense that is focused on Mitch Trubisky’s development as a passer.
Nagy’s offensive scheme may be a double-edged sword for Howard’s 2018 fantasy season, but his consistency, in addition to a new system, shouldn’t lower his average draft position outside the second or third round of fantasy drafts.
- 250 rushing attempts – 1200 rushing yards – 8 rushing touchdowns
- 30 receptions – 250 receiving yards – 1 receiving touchdown
- 199 fantasy points (standard) – 229 fantasy points (PPR)