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Fade Public Perception and Take the Discount on Jordan Howard

Fantasy Football Twitter has soured on Jordan Howard this offseason, and we see that reflected in his Average Draft Position.newplot (12)

According to MFL10 ADP,1 Howard is being drafted, on average, as the RB16 with the 26th pick. However, his ADP falls within a wide range, as he’s being drafted as high as the 13th pick and as low as the 37th pick. When Howard slips in drafts, this presents a buying opportunity for those who still believe in Howard as a fantasy asset.

Why People Are Down On Howard

Game Script Dependent

Receptions are more valuable than carries, and Howard has just 29 (34th) and 23 (48th) receptions in his first two seasons.

howard_rec_car

With Howard’s embarrassing career 63-percent catch rate and 35-percent receiving success rate, the Bears will certainly continue to utilize Tarik Cohen as the pass-catching RB after feeding him 71 targets (10th) as a rookie. Cohen’s presence was enough to reduce Howard’s snap share and opportunity share by about 12 percent each. This fluctuation in usage makes Howard game script dependent, and he failed to score even seven fantasy points (half-PPR) in five-of-15 games during the fantasy season last year. It’s fair to expect Cohen to continue to eat into Howard’s playing time.

Why You Should Buy Howard

Early Career Production

Howard opened his career with half-PPR RB10 and RB12 finishes. His 281 (13th) and 299 (seventh) touches have helped him to 1,611 (sixth) and 1,247 (13th) yards from scrimmage.

Surrounding Situation Upgrades 

Although it’s trendy to mention Cohen as the stylistically better fit for new head coach Matt Nagy’s spread system, Howard will also benefit from the upgraded scheme.

Formation Offensive Plays Yards Per Carry Successful Play Rate
Shotgun 105 6.8 50%
Under Center 311 4.1 43%

Despite being more effective running out of shotgun than under center2, Howard has been asked to run from under center nearly three times more. In Mitchell Trubisky’s rookie season, the Bears were in shotgun on 50 percent of plays. Nagy’s Chiefs, on the other hand, were in shotgun on 70 percent of plays. Although Andy Reid was the primary play caller for much of the season, Nagy took over duties in Week 13 last year. From that point forward, the Chiefs were in shotgun on 79 percent of plays.

However, with the scheme change we can also expect the Bears’ archaic 55 percent pass-to-run ratio to shift more towards a passing offense.3 The good news is this may not affect the raw rushing volume, as the Bears should also see an increase in overall plays after averaging just 58.4 offensive plays per game (31st).

The Bears have dramatically reshaped their receiving corps. While it’s fair to wonder if Howard’s deficiencies as a receiver will tip-off run plays to defenses, the upgraded supporting cast and spread system should help Howard see fewer stacked boxes, as he faced eight-plus defenders in the box on 43.12 percent of his carries (seventh).

Touchdown Opportunity

Howard scored seven (22nd) and nine (eighth) touchdowns in his first two seasons, despite playing for a Bears team that struggled to move the ball downfield — Chicago ranked dead last in total first downs last year. Although only six players had more total touches than Howard in 2017, he ranked just 15th in red-zone touches. So there’s room for Howard’s 32 red-zone touches to grow in an offense that should take a step forward. Double-digit touchdowns are within Howard’s range of outcomes.

Strength of Schedule

Howard will thrive in positive game scripts, but has a low floor when trailing due to his lack of receiving usage. Fortunately, only nine teams face an easier schedule than the Bears in 2018, according to Hasan Rahim’s work using sabermetrics to predict 2018 wins. You may need to close your eyes and hope Howard survives five games against the Packers (twice), Patriots, Vikings, and Rams, but it helps that four of those games are at home.

Expect More of the Same … Which Makes Howard a Value

Using Dave Caban’s FFDRAFTPREP Excel Package, I have Howard projected for 58 percent of the Bears rushing attempts and a seven percent target share, leading to over 250 touches and 1,200 yards from scrimmage.

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 3.29.28 PM

While there are game-script concerns for Howard, he gets offensive scheme and surrounding talent upgrades with what appears to be a favorable schedule. Take the ADP discount due to depressed public perception and bet on Howard to once again return a top-15 RB finish.

  1. From 5/1/18 – 7/12/18  (back)
  2. Howard averages a whopping 2.7 yards per carry more when running out of shotgun.  (back)
  3. Kansas City passed on 60 percent of their plays in 2017.  (back)
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