Perhaps one the most under-the-fantasy-radar moves this offseason was Jordan Howard‘s move from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Miami Dolphins. Personally, it felt like I heard the news, thought about it for a moment, then immediately dismissed the change like swatting away a fly. After all, it’s the Dolphins. They were dead last in points allowed, last in rush attempts, last in rush yards, second to last in rush yards per attempt, and their leading rusher was their QB Ryan Fitzpatrick who isn’t exactly fleet of foot. Their offensive line was likewise dead last following the 2019 season per Pro Football Focus. Any player, especially a starting RB, goes to Miami to disappear into the abyss of irrelevance.
This “meh” move is reflected in the general dismissiveness of Jordan Howard’s fantasy impact for 2020. His ADP is right around the middle to end of the 10th Round. That is ridiculously low for a starting RB on a team in desperate need of a high volume rusher. So, is the move to Miami really such a wasteland of fantasy points? Are we sleeping on a player who has the opportunity to win you weeks in 2020 or maybe even your league? Let’s dive into his new football home and predict what we can expect from Jordan Howard in 2020.
What a Difference Two Years Make
It seems like a lifetime ago when Howard finished as the RB9 in both 2016 (his rookie year) and in 2017 in half-PPR scoring. He averaged 14.4 and 12.4 points per game respectively with 70.1 and 87.5 yards per game. He also ranked 6th highest in rush attempts (250) and 7th in TDs (9) in 2018, and 9th in 1st downs during his last year with the Chicago Bears. However, a pitiful yards per attempt at 3.7 and only 58.4 yards per game plummeted his overall ranking to RB24 in that same year. It was pretty clear that Howard did not fit into new head coach Matt Nagy’s system.
When Howard moved to the Eagles, there was renewed optimism in his performance. The Eagles needed a bruising back to carry the load in the run game, but his resurgence was cut short due to a shoulder injury. He only played 9 games in 2019 but averaged 11.8 fantasy points per game during that time. Had Howard stayed healthy for the full season we wouldn’t be treating him as an RB39 we pass up on in 10th Round of the 2020 draft. His ill-suited situation under Nagy followed by just over half a season of playing time has made his back-to-back RB9 finishes a distance memory.
A New Home
Lamenting over what Howard could have been doesn’t help us moving forward. He had the potential last year, but his shoulder cut him short. Now, he’s on a new team with a new offensive coordinator. There are some interesting connections within the Miami coaching staff now that new OC Chan Gailey was lured out of retirement. First, Gailey recruited Flores out of high school and later faced him across the field during Flores’ time with the Patriots. Gailey was also coaching Ryan Fitzpatrick with both the Bills and the Jets. Over his extensive coaching tenure, Gailey has been known for creating and tailoring plays around a player’s strengths rather than force them into a predefined role. This is a part of Gailey’s coaching style that should not be overlooked.
I highly doubt that Miami planned on having 37-year-old Fitzpatrick as their leading rusher in 2019. With all of the rotating pieces at WR and a complete lack of running back production, he really had no choice. In addition to adding Howard as an early-down back, the Dolphins also acquired pass-catching RB Matt Breida to shoulder the load. They made some improvements to the O-Line with offseason signings as well as during the 2020 draft. It’s clear they understand their weaknesses, which are many, but certainly protecting the QB and adding a run game were top priorities this season.
Howard’s new home with the Dolphins isn’t exactly flashy and his days as in the RB1 tier are probably over. However, when it comes to fantasy football, we want opportunity and volume. It may feel like Howard has been in the NFL for the last twenty years, but he’s only 25 years old and played at least 15 games each season with the exception of last year. He’s on an offense that can’t get much worse and with a new OC who is creative with his offensive weapons. He has a pass-catching counterpart in Breida who has a completely different style of run-game than Howard and will be used in concert. This increases Howard’s likeliness of finishing each game and the season at full throttle. He is productive in the end zone and can be that workhorse RB when given the opportunity in a proper offense.
All of these things sound well and good, but let’s face it – we’re talking about the Dolphins who have a lot of work to do. The biggest obstacle Howard will face is the game script. It’s unlikely that Miami will have the lead and rely more on the run game. The chances are high that we still see Fitzpatrick slinging it downfield to play catch-up in the second half. This significant reality will keep Howard far away from RB1 territory. A 2020 finish as a middle to high RB2 is achievable barring injury and if the O-Line can be cohesive and effective in their protection.
Howard’s current ADP is toward the end of the 10th Round in half-PPR formats according to Fantasy Football Calculator. That’s around players like Matt Stafford, Justice Hill, and Golden Tate. I wouldn’t hesitate to add Howard to my roster for the 2020 season. He is an athletic, powerful running back capable of over 1,000 yards rushing and who can manage a high volume load of 250 touches or more. He can be used in the flex with consistent fantasy production and could be an RB2 start depending on the matchup. If he blows up in our faces, we are talking about a 10th Round pick with little draft capital wasted.
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