Jordan Howard vs. Ezekiel Elliott


Ezekiel Elliott is really good at football. There is absolutely no disputing that. The thing is, Jordan Howard is really good at football, too. He might be as good as Elliott. There is no sure-fire way to make that determination so it's basically just an opinion. If I was a Cowboys fan I would laugh off any suggestion that Howard (or any other running back not named Le'Veon Bell) is as good as Zeke. But I'm a Bears fan and in my Bears world I think it's perfectly reasonable to think that Howard could be equal to Elliott.

Looking strictly at the common statistics would make for a strong argument against this premise. Though the two of them finished first and second in the NFL in rushing yards in 2016, Elliott rushed for more yards than Howard (1631 to Howard's 1313) and more than doubled Howard's touchdown total (15 rushing; 1 receiving for Elliott to Howard's 6 rushing and 1 receiving). But looking at things a little closer makes for a much more compelling comparison. They each had seven 100+ yard games. Howard's yards per carry (YPC) average was higher than Elliott's (5.2 for Howard to 5.1 for Elliott) and Elliott's yardage totals came on 70 more carries than Howard got. Things start to get even more interesting after looking at some of the advanced metrics from Pro Football Focus (PFF). On average yards after contact (YCO/ATT) Howard bested Elliott pretty easily (3.3 for Howard; 2.9 for Elliott). Only Miami's Jay Ajayi (3.4) averaged more yards after contact than Howard in the entire NFL. Howard also out-performed Elliott when it came to forcing missed tackles (40 for Howard to 36 for Elliott). Keep in mind that this number came in 70 fewer carries for Howard. When defenses stacked the box with 7 men to stop the run, Howard averaged 6.05 YPC to Elliott's 5.63. And for all of Howard's reputation as a straight-line power back he actually also easily out distanced Elliott in PFF's Elusive Rating (55.2 for Howard to 37.0 for Elliott). Elusive Rating measures a back's success level beyond the point of being helped by his offensive line. Elliott is generally considered to be a better receiver than Howard and truth be told Howard often struggled as a receiver last year. That remains an area of needed improvement for him while Elliott is a very natural receiver. Surprisingly, though, it turns out that Elliott wasn't much more of a threat in the passing game last year than Howard was (32 receptions/363 yards for Elliott and 29 receptions/298 yards for Howard) and Elliott had a much more stable quarterback situation.

It seems as though there are two main things separating Elliott from Howard. Elliott is much flashier and more highlight-reel worthy and he plays on a much better team. Those two things more than any others are what has the hype train rolling down the tracks for Elliott and unfortunately there isn't much Howard can do to help himself in comparison. Howard is more likely to break a tackle than to hurdle defenders in stride. Broken tackles are great and gain no fewer yards than hurdling defenders would, but it doesn't make the highlight reels and draw the same kind of attention. And until the Bears become more competitive they just won't get the national attention that America's Team will. And Howard doesn't seem to be the type to jump into a Salvation Army donation bucket during a national broadcast, either, though I could be wrong.


My point is that Ezekiel Elliott is really good at football. There is absolutely no disputing that. The thing is, Jordan Howard is really good at football too.

This Fanpost was written by a Windy City Gridiron member and does not necessarily reflect the ideas or opinions of its staff or community.