Historical Comps for Jordan Howards’ Rookie Season
Continuing my look at rookie running backs, and comparing them to recent players at the same position, attention now turns to the Windy City, and Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears.
I set the RotoViz Screener:
to find rookies from 2010 – 2016, and selected some basic production and usage numbers as variables. I also included draft pick. The influence of draft pick on a player’s opportunity declines over time, but it’s still relevant heading into a player’s second season. Then I asked the Screener to find seasons comparable to my target player.
In the whole illustrious history of the Green Bay Packers, only two RBs have had more rushing yards in their first three seasons than Eddie Lacy. After back-to- back RB6 seasons in 2013 and 2014, he has averaged less than eight fantasy points per game in his last two seasons, “good” for RB46.
In his first NFL season, Todd Gurley had five games of at least 128 rushing yards. Now 29 games into his NFL career, he has exactly five games of at least 128 rushing yards. He has 11 games of 50 yards or less since his fourth 100 yard game, while he averaged less than four yards per carry in 14 games in 2015.
Coming out of nowhere, Zac Stacy was a fantasy league winner for many people back in 2013. Averaging nearly 19 rushes per game, his eight total touchdowns helped him finish as RB18 ahead of more proven fantasy commodities like Danny Woodhead and C.J. Spiller. However, he has a grand total of 107 rushes since 2013, with just 382 yards. He hasn’t played since the end of the 2015 season, and is probably better known for his Twitter reaction after the Rams drafted Gurley than anything he’s done on the gridiron.
After just 860 rushing yards at an average of 3.5 yards a carry in his rookie year, Le’Veon Bell has emerged as one of the great dual threat RBs in the NFL. No RB has more receptions than the 182 Bell has reeled in between 2014-16, and Bell also has more receiving yards than any other back with 1606. He has averaged 18.2 fantasy points per game in that span, and in 2016 he averaged 157 yards from scrimmage per game. Safe to say, he’s a little bit special.
Jeremy Hill has had, in his three seasons in the league, 222 carries in 2014, 223 in 2015 and 222 again in 2016. His 2014 totes brought him 1124 yards at 5.1 yards per clip. His 445 carries since have brought 1633 yards at 3.67 yards per carry. Quite the drop off. He does share the lead for rushing touchdowns in that span, tied with LeGarrette Blount with 29, but in terms of fantasy points per game he is down at RB25 with just over 10 per outing. After finishing as RB10 in his rookie year, he has posted RB14 and RB19 seasons. Not disastrous, but if he stops scoring touchdowns (and given the Bengals have decided against fielding an offensive line in 2017), he offers practically bugger all in fantasy terms. He averages 1.3 catches per game.
How did year two pan out for this crew?
While Gurley saw his market share leap from 53 percent to 74, and his carries from 229 to 278, his yardage fell by 223. His yards per carry dropped from 4.8 to 3.2, and his touchdowns came at a 2.2 percent clip after a 4.4 rate in his rookie season.
Big Eddie Lacy actually scored 20 more PPR points in his sophomore campaign than in his rookie year. His attempts and yards dropped, as did his touchdowns, but his yards per carry went from 4.1 to 4.6. He also scored four touchdowns through the air.
Bell saw his yards per carry jump from 3.5 to 4.7, and his yards increase from 860 to 1361. His market share increased by seven percent, and the only disappointment was that his touchdown rate actually dropped…from 33 percent to 28 percent. Hardly worthy of tears.
After being overdrafted following his rookie season, Stacy saw just 76 carries in his second year. His market share fell from 59 percent to 19, his touchdown rate decreased from 28 percent to 13, though his yards per carry remained at 3.9.
Hill found the end zone two more times in his second year, scoring 11 times compared to nine in his rookie season. However, his yards per carry dropped from 5.1 to 3.6, despite his market share increased from 45 percent to 48.
On average, this merry band (including Jordan Howard) averaged 217.9 PPR points in their first NFL seasons. From rookie RBs in the pass happy age we live in, you’d be pretty satisfied with that. That average would be good enough for 23rd best among rookie RBs since the start of the 21st century. In year two, the average only falls to 218, thanks in no small part to the 370.5 season posted by Bell. But still, Stacy aside, quite a solid second go round for this group.
Despite the popular idea that John Fox hates rookies (spoiler alert – he does), Jordan Howard was given ample opportunities to become the foundation piece of an offense that at times looked bloody awful. He had at least ten carries in twelve games, and had at least 20 in four. Only Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson had games in which they saw more carries than the 32 Howard notched against the 49ers, and this mark has only been exceeded by four rookie RBs since the 2010 season. He went over the century mark in rushing yards seven times, and from Week 8 onwards he never rushed for less than 77 yards. He achieved a yards per carry mark in excess of five yards per tote in eight games.
In his monster game against the 49ers, Jordan Howard found the end zone three times. In the other 14 games he played, he scored just three more times. He was also less than 100 percent reliable in the passing game, reeling in just 58 percent of his targets. He had one catch or less in six games, and against the Giants in Week 11 he caught just one of EIGHT targets. Only Jonathan Stewart had a worse catch rate among RBs with at least 20 targets. It’s not a killer, as he showed he could certainly chip in with yards on the ground, but his fantasy points per game mark of 13.4 was good for RB9. Of the RBs ahead of him, only one (Blount) had less than 32 receptions. Jordan Howard could do with improving this area of his game.
Incredibly positive. The Bears have said goodbye to Jay Cutler and replaced him with Mike Glennon, who is not exactly a surefire stud at the quarterback spot. They will need to run the ball to hide his deficiencies. Alshon Jeffery also upped sticks and left, leaving the receiving corps looking thin. 2016 was the first time under John Fox that the Bears haven’t finished in the top half in terms of rushing attempts, finishing a disappointing 25th. They still finished 17th in rushing yards, however. Even if the Bears figure to be behind in a host of games in 2016, and they do, rational coaching would infer that they continue to feed Jordan Howard. He is currently going off the board in mock drafts at the end of the first round, the 7th RB off the board, according to Fantasy Football Calculator.
While it’s hard to argue with this ranking, I don’t really like taking an RB who isn’t going to really help in the receiving game in the first round, especially when his team are likely to be taken to the toolshed on occasion. I’d prefer to get him about another round later, but I still think Jordan Howard is in for a solid season.