Jordan Howard had to find a new football home in 2015 after the University of Alabama-Birmingham football program shut down. Rather than bounce to another small program, he made the jump to a power conference by joining Indiana in the Big Ten. Facing tougher competition, Howard proved he was ready for the big leagues by earning first-team All-Conference honors last year. I took a look at the tape to see what might be in store for Howard once he makes the next jump up in competition in the NFL.
» Good balance to run through contact
» Consistently falls forward for extra yardage
» Excellent vision through the line and to the second level
» Jump to a major conference didn't impact production
What jumps off the tape when watching Howard is his balance. He's able to run through arm tackles and spin off of first contact, keeping his center of gravity to pick up extra yardage. And when he does get hit, he's almost always sure to push and fall forward for additional yardage. Rarely does he get stood up or pushed backward at the point of contact.
Howard isn't the flashiest of players, but he's consistently good at identifying the right hole, angle and getting what's there (plus a little extra). He consistently picks up chunks of yardage, even if he doesn't have home-run speed or ability.
» No wiggle in the open field
» Gets caught from behind A LOT
» Lacks one-cut ability to drive upfield in a hurry
» Missed time with knee and ankle injuries
Howard is kind of a one-trick pony when it comes to his running style, as he isn't shifty in space and doesn't have a second gear. He can make gliding cuts akin to a poor man's Arian Foster at times, but for the most part he isn't making anyone miss or pulling away from anyone in space. Furthermore, he gets caught from behind A LOT, which could become even more frequent once he has to deal with the speed in the NFL. While his vision is certainly NFL-caliber, right now he struggles to be able to make one strong cut and turn up field on outside and stretch runs. He seems to need to take multiple steps to reposition himself and thus misses out on some yards/space. Lastly, his bruising running style could be catching up to him, as he missed time in 2015 battling knee and ankle injuries, something NFL teams will certainly take note of.
Ideal NFL fantasy fits
Dallas waited in the wings during the opening frenzy of free agency, and could look to build their backfield by throwing a middle round pick at Howard, who would be a great fit (as would most backs) behind that offensive line. Miami just lost Lamar Miller, and could use Howard as another bruising complement to Jay Ajayi, who also has more skills as a pass-catcher than Howard. The Colts need to find a running back of the future, and while Howard is limited as a pass-catcher, he could come in and learn from Frank Gore for a year before taking over full time. Matt Forte signed with the Jets, but they lack depth behind him. Howard could serve as the short-yardage and power back to keep Forte fresh, while also learning from the wily veteran.
Early fantasy draft projection
In moving from UAB to Indiana, Howard proved he's not one to shy away from a challenge such as an improved level of competition. He's a productive, workhorse runner, but his limited explosion and passing-game deficencies could force him into the middle rounds of the NFL draft. In the right situation, Howard will certainly be worth a later-round pick in redraft leagues, and probably a second-round pick in dynasty formats. Owners will just need to learn to live without highlight-reel plays on a weekly basis, and accept solid, workmanlike production.