As you rigorously prepare and research leading into each season and week of DFS, different factors are always going to change the landscape. “Next Man Up” is a series that examines players who are now being propelled into a starting role (thus creating a larger opportunity for that player), whether it be via injury, suspension or simply a change to the depth chart.
The tables turn quickly in the NFL. One of last season’s most popular next men up — Jeremy Langford — now finds himself on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Langford’s work in Matt Forte’s absence last season won him the starting job in 2016 and gave Chicago the confidence to let Forte walk away. Now just three games into his career as the Bears’ starting RB, Langford has gone down with a high ankle sprain likely to cost him 4-6 weeks.
In his first two career starts in 2015, Langford took the fantasy world by storm. It began with a 72-yard performance against the Chargers in which Langford scored a touchdown and added 70 yards on three receptions. The following week he exploded against the Rams, gaining 73 yards and a touchdown on the ground to go along with 109 receiving yards and another touchdown.
After his initial impact, Langford was relatively pedestrian in both the rushing and passing attack. He carried that into this season, gaining just 116 yards on 31 carries while hauling in five passes for 27 yards.
Now Jordan Howard gets the chance to become this year’s Jeremy Langford.
Chicago’s offense isn’t exactly a juggernaut, ranking 27th in overall offense and 30th in rushing, while already down to a backup QB (Brian Hoyer) and backup RB. But with Ka’Deem Carey (CHI’s 3rd-string RB) nursing a hamstring injury and also out, Howard is all the Bears have right now.
Howard’s initial workload should be a hefty one when the Bears host a soft Lions’ defense next weekend, and his history says he can handle it. The rookie racked up 2,978 yards from scrimmage on 522 touches in his final two years in college. 315 of those touches came as a sophomore at UAB before transferring to Indiana for a year.
Howard didn’t dress for the Bears in Week 1, but he’s quickly been earning a role. After five touches for 31 yards in Week 2, Chicago was clearly trying to involve him more even before Langford went down in Week 3. Howard wound up with 13 touches for 92 yards against the Cowboys.
Frankly the only big concern regarding Howard’s value is game script for the Bears. They could go down big against any team, which obviously means they’ll be looking to air it out. Keep an eye on Howard’s role in the passing game this weekend. If he’s involved, that’s a great sign for his value/floor going forward, making him far easier to trust.
There was chatter this preseason about Howard having the skill set to supplant Langford (who was reportedly unimpressive) as the starter this season. It looked like we were seeing the beggining of that on Sunday night, but Langford’s injury clears the way for Howard to run with the starting job.
By the time Langford’s healthy again, my guess would be a RBBC is the best case scenario from his standpoint. Unless Howard falls flat on his face, he’ll take this opportunity to become the Bears’ new starting RB just as Langford did less than 12 months ago. It’s up to Howard to try and hang on longer than Langford did.
Editor’s Note: The Bears have also signed former Lions RB Joique Bell.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.