Jordan Howard - This Year’s Todd Gurley?

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Many are quick to make the connection between Todd Gurley and Jordan Howard, but it remains to be seen how accurate that connection actually is. I understand the rush to equate the two, as wasting a 1st round pick is devastating in fantasy football. However, upon closer examination, there really isn’t much to tie the two RBs together.

Gurley and Howard are two completely different RBs in two completely different situations. Passing on Howard due to stretched Gurley comparisons is mistake that could cause you to miss out a majorly valuable player.

Let's look into the reasons why Jordan Howard isn't likely to suffer a sophomore slump and let down his fantasy owners in the same way Gurley did.

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Gurley 2.0 or Better Version?

The first reason Howard and Gurley aren’t great analogs is because of their of respective offensive lines. Last year, Chicago’s line allowed 2.44 yards before contact overall, and an even more impressive 3.33 yard before contact up the middle. A big part of this is because of rookie center Codie Whitehair, who is likely to build on his amazing debut season. In addition to this, the Bear’s are all shored up at guard due to Kyle Long (LG) and Josh Sitton (RG). On a sharp contrary to this, the Rams trotted out players who I would be generous to call average, such as Saffold, Sullivan, and Brown. That paltry trio is likely the largest contributor to Gurley’s down season, seeing as they chipped in for .64 yards before contact. Yes, those numbers are accurate. The Rams offensive line did, in fact, allow less than a yard before contact on average. I understand the red flags surrounding an emergent young runningback on a bad team. The flags were there with Gurley and now people are quick to assign them to Howard. However, a deeper look at the statistics, show that the Bears are not such a bad team, at least in regards to the part of football related to the run game.

Another reason we should not be so quick to dismiss Howard as the next Gurley is that they run in completely different ways, and contribute different things to their teams. Gurley has always, even in college, been a home run hitter. In his breakout season, Gurley had 11 runs of 20+ yards (5 runs of 40+) and chipped in two 20+ yard receptions to boot. During this electric season, he averaged 4.8 yards per tote. Meanwhile, in his first season, Howard had 10 runs of 20+ yards (2 runs of 40+), and 4 receptions of 20+. In that season, Howard averaged 5.2 yards per carry. While at a glance these comparisons seem rather similar, it is important to note that Gurley had more overall runs of 20+ and also, perhaps more importantly, more than twice the 40+ runs that Howard had.

Another important fact hidden in that comparison is that, while Gurley had better big play ability on the whole, Howard was much more balanced in how he got his, given his more balanced run/pass attack. Finally, despite Gurley’s larger amount of big plays, Howard beat him out on YPC, making him a much more consistent RB. The point I’m tiptoeing around here is that Gurley lives and dies by his big runs, but Howard doesn’t need them. When facing stacked boxes and poor OL play, Gurley couldn’t gain the yards in small chunks. Howard, if needed, can plod out the chunk yardage, while also providing big play ability in the pass and run game.

So don’t fall prey to the alarmist notions of both the gurus and casual fans. Target Howard as you normally would. In fact, while I’ve mainly seen him going mid/late second, I have taken him very early second in drafts where I start with WR, and feel utterly confident with him as my RB1.

 

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