Jordan Howard to PHI: A rare trade that
creates two potential fantasy assets while destroying zero.
From an NFL standpoint, this was a very minor trade. The Bears traded
Jordan Howard to the Eagles for a 2020 sixth round pick (that could
become a fifth round pick). For fantasy purposes, this could be
Both Matt Nagy and Doug Pederson seem to be very much entrenched
in the “running backs don’t matter” camp (because
they are smart). The Eagles won a super bowl with a three man
committee that included Jay Ajayi. The Bears have had more talented
running backs in Howard and Tarik Cohen, but neither player costs
very much. Cohen was a fourth round selection and Howard a fifth.
The Bears’ biggest offseason move was signing Mike Davis
to a two year, $6 million contract. He’s the one I’d
like to discuss first. Davis has always been an underrated player.
He has nice agility (74th percentile), but not much else. He finished
19th in juke rate and 22nd in yards created per carry last season,
which only reinforces his ability to make defenders miss.
Davis was a solid, if unspectacular option who had a couple useful
weeks for fantasy owners last season. In Week 4, he touched the
ball 25 times and finished as the RB6. In Week 5, Davis touched
the ball 14 times and finished as the RB18. In Week 9, Davis touched
the ball 22 times and finished as the RB11. In Week 10, Davis
touched the ball 15 times and finished as the RB14. And finally,
in Week 15, Davis touched the ball 13 times and finished as the
RB19. He had plenty of other weeks where he was completely useless,
but no one is suggesting that Davis was a reliable fantasy asset
in 2018. The point is that when given opportunity, he has proven
capable of performing.
Howard carried the ball 250 times last season and saw 27 targets.
That’s a lot of volume suddenly available in Chicago. One thing
we can be sure of is it’s not all going to Cohen (99 carries,
89 targets). Cohen should see an uptick in usage, but Davis is
going to have a substantial role. He could be looking at 180-220
carries and 30-40 targets as Davis is a much better pass catcher
than Howard. Like most fantasy analysts, I still like Cohen more
than Davis, but Davis is definitely a name to file away for August
and see where his ADP ends up. Once you hit the third round of
fantasy drafts, the running backs become increasingly unreliable
and I think Davis will settle in around the fifth or sixth round
and could be an absolute bargain.
Of course, this all hinges on what the Bears do in the upcoming
NFL draft. I would be shocked if they didn’t take at least
a day three back, possibly a day two back. Depending on who that
is, our projections for Davis may change (Cohen is locked into
his role). For now, I’m definitely bullish on Davis as the
2019 RB class is completely devoid of top end/game breaking talent.
Teams typically don’t go out of their way to acquire players
they do not intend to use. This bodes well for Jordan Howard,
who really couldn’t have landed in a better spot. Howard
joins the Eagles and doesn’t vaporize the value of anyone
(unless we’re seriously counting Josh Adams). The makeshift
trio of Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement, and Adams will now be
replaced partially by Howard. I say partially because Doug Pederson
is not going away from his committee approach. The change I expect
to see is more of a 60-30-10 split than the 40-40-20 split we
saw for most of last season. Look for Howard to command a 60%
opportunity share with Smallwood as the 30% runner up and Adams
cleaning up the scraps. I expect Clement to be cut.
The Eagles may draft a day two or three back, but I doubt anyone
they take will be much of a threat to Smallwood, who won’t
have any fantasy value anyway, and will be no threat to Howard.
Howard is a near perfect fit with the Eagles. They should once
again have a strong offense and Howard will dominate goal line
carries. His touchdown ceiling rises in Philadelphia and the strength
of their passing attack will help open up the run.
In 2018, no team had a higher shotgun snap rate than the Eagles
at 79%. Over his career, Howard has averaged 5.2 ypc running out
of the shotgun against just 3.8 ypc from under center. Given Howard’s
deficiencies in the passing game, the shotgun would appear, at
the very least, avoid telegraphing exactly what play is coming.
The Bears passed the ball from under center a league low 24% of
the time. Opposing teams certainly picked up on this trend and
it likely led to them keying in on Howard and the running game
whenever the Bears lined up under center. The Eagles ran the ball
from the shotgun 30% of the time, fifth most in the league. The
Eagles more pass heavy offense should actually improve Howard’s
effectiveness on the ground by making it less obvious as to when
he is actually getting the ball.
This is the rare trade that creates two potential fantasy assets
while destroying zero. I am interested in both Howard and Davis
as the right prices this season. We are still so early in the
process that ADPs are meaningless, but to satiate the curiosity
of the reader, I would be looking to draft Howard late third/early
fourth round and Davis anywhere in the sixth round or later.