NFL Draft Watch (Pre-NFL Scouting Combine): Indiana Hoosiers Running Back Jordan Howard
-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; (Image Source: Indiana Athlstics)
Despite losing 2,000-yard runner Tevin Coleman, the Indiana running game didn’t suffer a dramatic drop off in production this past season thanks to the addition of Jordan Howard. The 21-year old transfer from UAB spent one season in Bloomington before deciding to forgo his senior season for the NFL.
Measurables: Height: 6’1”; Weight: 230 pounds
At 6’1” and between 225-230 pounds, Howard has elite size for an NFL running back.
Where He Excels:
A very productive runner, Howard averaged 181.5 yards per game when he was given 20-plus carries (six games) this past season. When healthy, he is a workhorse back who can carry an offense on his shoulders (see Michigan game: 35 carries, 238 yards). Well built, Howard is a powerful runner who does his best work rushing between the tackles. He craves contact with excellent leg drive, which allows him to fall forward and create yards after contact. More than an athlete, Howard is a natural runner who uses his vision, decisiveness and feel for openings to gain yards. He runs with passion, protects the football and can get the tough yards in short yardage situations. Strong in pass protection.
Where He Struggles:
There are three clear-cut concerns scouts have heading into the combine. Unlike his predecessor at IU, Howard doesn’t possess the breakaway speed to run away from defenders in the open field. He also lacks experience as a pass catcher, as he caught only 11 balls during his junior season. It’s possible this is more about opportunity than lacking the skill set. Finally, Howard has a checkered injury history. As a junior, he missed four full games and parts of three others with knee and ankle ailments. He also suffered injuries as a high schooler.
NFL.com has Howard rated just behind Ezekiel Elliott, neck-and-neck with Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. He’s their highest-rated Hoosier in this class and they believe he has a “chance to become (a) good NFL starter.” ESPN.com has Howard rated third among backs, 88th overall, while CBSSports.com’s NFL Draft Scout his him 83rd overall with a second-third round ground, but just sixth at his position.
Yes, 40 times can be overrated, however they shouldn’t be completely dismissed either. Does he run a 4.55-time or higher as some predict or will he hit a mark closer to 4.50? A good three-cone effort would help teams overlook a slow 40-time. While the timed drills are what fans will focus on, it’s very likely that the medical portion of the NFL Scouting Combine is what will have the biggest impact on where Howard is drafted come April. The running backs checked into Indianapolis today and Howard will undergo his medical examination on Wednesday, before performing the on-field workouts on Friday.
At this point in the draft process, Howard looks to be a sure-fire Day 2 selection. If he’s a top-five back, look for him to go somewhere in the mid-to-late second-round range.
UAB’s loss was IU’s game, as Howard stepped right into the starting lineup and finished second in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game earning first team All-Big Ten honors despite the time missed. I really like Howard’s floor (in terms of projection) and was impressed with how he transitioned from mid-major football to a Power 5 conference. However, I’m not sure how high his ceiling is, especially when factoring the injury concerns. Howard’s bread-and-butter is power but his lack of agility might be overstated because he can make defenders miss in the open field. He may not be a future Pro Bowler, but Howard has the talent to be a starter in the NFL who can make an impact from Day 1.
Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. You can reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.