2019 Fantasy Football: Players to avoid in the NFC East

There are plenty of fantasy football articles advising you who to draft and when. However, what about the players to stay away from? In the second part of the Players to Avoid series, I tackle the NFC East.

Jordan Howard, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

The Case

The Philadelphia Eagles obtained running back Jordan Howard in a trade with the Chicago Bears for a 2020 sixth-round pick. That doesn’t seem much to give up for a durable running back who started 44 of his 47 career games. Howard has proven that he can handle at least 270 touches per season since he entered the league in 2016. And he ranks third in the league in rushing yards (3,426) over the last three seasons.

Jordan Howard was not in the plans for the Chicago Bears offense ran by Head Coach Matt Nagy. Matt Nagy prefers multi-faceted backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield and run outside the tackles. Howard is a north-south running back who did not fit the scheme run by Nagy.

However, the move to the Eagles may not be the fantasy gold that some fantasy football analysts predict. Howard is a volume guy, and his fantasy value hinges on that volume. Regrettably, the Eagles backfield will be a committee approach that will consist of Howard, 2019 NFL second-round pick Miles Sanders, Super Bowl LII hero Corey Clement, and Wendell Smallwood.

The former Hoosier is entering the final year of his contract. Howard should be highly motivated to demonstrate his talents and prove that he can get better with pass-catching. Howard must also realize that Sanders is the future in the Eagles backfield, so mainly Howard is playing this season as a one year audition.

The Eagles have a desperate need for a bruiser in the backfield, a back that can assume the short-yardage and early-down work. Howard should start the 2019 season as the early-down workhorse. However, head coach Doug Pederson has always leaned heavily on a committee approach in the backfield. Even in the days of Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount, those backs never received featured workloads.

There is one running back that could take the reins of the featured back role, and that is Sanders. Sanders is a true all-purpose back. He has excellent hands and will be a threat in the passing game. He possesses tremendous vision and breakaway speed. All attributes that constitute a feature running back. Sanders should have a significant role in the Eagles offense. It might not happen at the onset of the season, but by the middle to the latter portion of the season, Sanders should thrive in the lead back role.

Where does this leave Jordan Howard?

The Verdict

Howard may start the 2019 season as the lead back, but he projects as the bruiser out of the backfield. The back that the Eagles will insert in short-yardage and goal-line situations. A role that suits Howard well as he finished as one of the best red-zone running backs in the NFL last season, according to Pro Football Focus. On his 34 rushing attempts in the red zone, he ran for a first down or a touchdown on 44 percent of his carries, which tied for third at the position.

The obstacle with Howard is that so much of his fantasy football output is going to be touchdown-based. He will not catch many passes, and he will not achieve 200+ carries in the Eagles’ offense.

A disturbing trend for Howard is that his fantasy points per game have declined as well as his yards per attempt in each of his three seasons in the league. In his rookie season, Howard achieved 5.2 yards per carry, but last season his yards per carry fell dramatically to 3.7. This three-year downward spiral is one of the main reasons he is not wearing a Chicago Bears uniform.

Jordan Howard will be over-drafted for the 2019 fantasy football season. Fantasy owners will target Howard as their RB2, and they will be greatly disappointed. Given his predicted role in this offense, I can’t fathom selecting Howard earlier than the seventh round, and that might even be too rich for me. If that means I won’t have Howard on my fantasy roster this season, I am wonderful with it.