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Player Showdown: Jordan Howard or Jerick McKinnon?

(All offseason, Michael Moore will be looking at some specific draft conundrums facing drafters in an effort to determine which player should be the preference. Track the whole series here.)

This week’s Player Showdown looks at two running backs who could be considered question marks but for different reasons. Currently, Jordan Howard and Jerick McKinnon are going in the high RB2 range of ADP and in the second round of most mock drafts. For Howard, he’s been one of the most productive running backs in the league the last two years. However, he also is working with a whole new coaching staff and it remains to be seen if his productivity will continue. For McKinnon, the role his new team, the 49ers, has for him isn’t in doubt but there’s questions as to if he’ll be able to live up to it. All of this makes for an interesting edition of the showdown.

The players

Howard has quietly strung together one of the more impressive starts for a running backs career. After being an afterthought in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Howard won the starting job early in his rookie season on his way to rushing for more than 1,300 yards. For those who thought it was a rookie fluke, he added another 1,100 yards last year. His 2,435 yards over the last two seasons is good for third among all running backs and is actually 19th all-time for a running back’s first two seasons. But while Howard’s cumulative numbers were great, there should be some real concern with his efficiency. For example, his yards per attempt dropped by a full yard, from 5.2 as a rookie to 4.1. Furthermore, his yards per reception dropped in half too, from 10.3 to 5.4. Speaking of catching the ball, Howard hasn’t nearly performed as well as he has running the ball. He was second-to-last in PFF’s drop rate out of 55 qualifying running backs. That was actually a slight improvement from being last the year before.

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