The NFL released its top 10 players on their Top 100 Players of 2018 list voted on by the players Monday night. No one from the Chicago Bears roster made the list, although there was one player especially worthy of being ranked.
Surprisingly, running back Jordan Howard did not make the list although having a decent second year in the league. Howard’s performance through two years raises questions about the validity of the list as he has been one of the better running backs in the league.
When Howard was drafted by the Bears in fifth-round of the 2016 NFL Draft, not much was expected from him. After not appearing in Week 1 that season, Howard produced more and more as the season went on claiming the starting role by week four. By the end of the season, he would record 1,313 rushing yards for a team that only won three games.
Howard broke several Bears rookie rushing records and was named to the Pro Bowl.
In 2017, he was seen as the Bears best and most consistent offensive weapon. There would be no sophomore slump as he would rush for over 1,000 yards again finishing with 1,122. Howard’s 2017 performance was even more impressive as he often played with nagging injuries and with opposing defenses knowing he was the Focal point the Bears offense.
He started every game last season and increased his rushing touchdowns by three from his rookie season.
On this year’s Top 100 Players list, nine running backs made the list, with six being ranked in the top 50. The running backs included Devonta Freeman, Leonard Fournette, Ezekiel Elliot, Mark Ingram, Kareem Hunt, LeSean McCoy, Alvin Kamara, Todd Gurley, and Le’Veon Bell.
Howard’s number ranked in the top 10 of all major rushing categories in 2017 and was right there with some of the top guys on the list. He finished sixth in rushing yards and rushing attempts, and finished third in rushing touchdowns tied with Fournette and Bell with nine.
Howard’s number are even more impressive given the circumstances he played under in 2017. All the running backs that made the list for 2018 had a consistent and veteran presence at quarterback throughout the year. The Bears offense struggled due to the inept play of Mike Glennon in their first four games and then had rookie Mitchell Trubisky play the remainder of the season.
Opposing defenses stacked eight men in the box the daring Trubisky to beat them through the air taking away Howard’s rushing lanes. He also played behind an often injured offensive line throughout the entirety of the season.
Even with those obstacles going against him, Howard found a way to remain productive as he recorded five 100 yard rushing games, four of which came with Trubisky under center. He also had three games in which he recorded multiple rushing touchdowns in which the Bears won all three of those games. In the 31 games played in his two-year career, Howard has had at least one rushing attempt of 25 yards or longer in 10 of those games, with five being 50 yards or longer.
There are some weaknesses that have manifested in Howard’s short career that may have affected his ability to be ranked. He has struggled as a receiver as he has consistently dropped passes during his Bears tenure. Last season, Howard dropped possible touchdowns catches in two games in which the Bears were trailing by a touchdown or less. Another weakness is his inability to score on long rushes as the longest rushing touchdown of his career is only 21 yards.
Although there are weaknesses, it is still hard to overlook Howard as being one of the better running backs in the NFL. He has recorded over 2,435 rushing yards for a team that has won just eight games in a two-year span. The majority of those eight wins were due in large part to Howard’s rushing production. The Bears running back may not be a highlight reel back, but he reliable and consistent performer and that should have been recognized by the Top 100 Player of 2018 List.