Fantasy Football: Is Jordan Howard underrated in 2017?

Everyone knows Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL is rushing last, but we seem to be overlooking number two on that list – Jordan Howard.  There is no fantasy football commodity being underrated more than Jordan Howard.  Ezekiel Elliott had an impressive 5.1 YPC behind the most impressive line in the NFL.  Jordan Howard averaged 5.2 YPC on an offensive line whose two best places missed a combined 11 games.

For all of Zeke’s hype, Jordan Howard had a higher YPC than Zeke did behind a decidedly worse offensive line.  And that is with defenses keying in on Jordan Howard because Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley don’t scare NFL defenses.  The only people Hoyer and Barkley scare when they are playing quarterback are the fans of those teams.

Currently, Jordan Howard is being drafted after the likes of Melvin Gordon, Demarco Murray, Devonte Freeman and Jay Ajayi.  But should Jordan Howard be selected after these running backs.

Rush Yards AVG Rec Yards AVG +100 Yard Games +75 Yard Games – 50 Yard Games
Jordan Howard 252 1313 5.2 29 298 10.3 7 11 2
Demarco Murray 293 1287 4.4 53 377 7.1 5 9 4
Devonte Freeman 227 1079 4.8 54 462 8.6 2 6 5
Melvin Gordon 254 997 3.9 41 419 10.2 3 5 3
Jay Ajayi 260 1272 4.9 27 151 5.6 4 7 2

The difference between Howard and his counterparts is staggering.  When you are drafting a running back in the first two rounds, more than anything you want consistency.  In 2016, Jordan Howard was a model of consistency with 7 +100 yard games.  He also had an additional 4 games where he broke 75 yards.  Of the first round running backs, only Demarco Murray rushed for over 75 yards in more than half the games played.

Even more impressive, Jordan Howard was only held to under 50 yards TWICE since he became the starter.  Which means last season, if you had Jordan Howard in your starting lineup, he was the most likely of this group of running backs to have a big game AND he was the least likely to have a poor one.

When looking at Ajayi’s numbers compared to Howard’s, they appear relatively similar.  However, a closer look shows that while Ajayi averaged 4.9 Y/C during the season, those splits are deceiving.  In the four games Ajayi rushed for over 100 yards, he had and impressive 735 yards.  He averaged an astonished 184 yards per game and 6.9 Y/C.  You probably won those games, but I hope you weren’t counting on him in his other eight starts.  There, he only rushed for 420 yards.  He averaged 52.5 yards per game and a paltry 3.6 Y/C.  Ajayi was the definition of feast or famine.

Melvin Gordon also seems to be a popular pick, but across the board, Jordan Howard just performed better.  He averaged more yards per carry and more yards per catch.  And he had twice as many games with over 100 yards.  Did I mention Howard’s also better looking?  He’s just better at life than Melvin Gordon and we all know it.

While Gordon and Ajayi aren’t in the same league as Howard, there is no denying Devonte Freeman and DeMarco Murray absolutely below in the same conversation.  While Freeman might not get the yards on the ground, there are very few receiving backs that are his equal.  And he has $41 million from Atlanta to show they also believe it.  When it comes to DeMarco Murray, he has proven repeatedly that he can produce at a high level.  But there are two reasons that you should consider taking Howard over both of them.  Derrick Henry and Tevin Coleman.  Both Murray and Freeman have two extremely talented back up’s that have proven they are going to get a share of the load.  When Jordan Howard took over the starting job last season, he dominated the running game workload, because nobody else was as good at it as he is.

Yet despite all this, Howard has been dropping to the back of the second round in a lot of drafts and in a lot of cases, he is making it all the way to the third round.  If he somehow makes it to the third round in your draft, that is because everyone in your league has made a terrible mistake.