Jordan Howard began his rookie season on the bench for the Chicago Bears. He didn’t even see the field until Week 2 and only played 11 offensive snaps before Week 3. Yet on a bad team that was frequently playing from behind, Howard over 1300 rushing yards and over 1600 yards from scrimmage and 7 touchdowns, finishing as the #9 fantasy running back last season. Going into the 2017 season, Howard is the only consistent player that the Bears can count on and he will be a big focal point of their offense this year. Yet with so much riding on his shoulders, if he were to go down with a major injury, what would the fantasy implications be for the rest of the Chicago offense?
Jeremy Langford, RB - Langford began the 2016 season as the starting running back for the Bears, but he hurt his ankle in Week 3 and didn’t see any major action again until Week 10. Langford was underwhelming for the Bears in his rookie season, but given the other Chicago running backs on the roster, Langford would become the de facto starter for the rest of the season. Chicago was a punching bag for many teams last season and they still had over 350 rushing attempts as a team. Langford would certainly see 225-250 rushing attempts and could approach 300 touches factoring in the short passing game. Langford is ranked #74 among fantasy running backs going into training camp and he’ll probably go undrafted in any league that isn’t a best-ball format. He should be on waiver-wire speed dial if Howard is lost, and you’ll be able to plug him in as an RB3/Flex or even bye-week starter in any 12-team league, with a little bump up in PPR leagues.
Zach Miller / Adam Shaheen, TE – Zach Miller was doing reasonably well for a fantasy tight end until he was lost to a Lisfranc injury to his right foot in Week 10. The veteran begins the preseason as Chicago’s No. 1 tight end, but the big signing of Dion Sims and drafting Adam Shaheen in the second round makes Miller’s future in Chicago shaky at best. Sims is more of a blocker, but Shaheen was drafted to contribute in the passing game. If Howard is lost for the season, the short passing game will benefit the most and either Miller or Shaheen could become the check-down option in the short passing game, and would certainly see additional red-zone targets without Howard to punch it in.
Mike Glennon, QB – The Chicago passing game is going to be on the field a lot this season, as the Bears expect to have another challenging year ahead of themselves. Glennon is the bridge quarterback until Mitchell Trubisky is ready to take over the starting job. Last season, Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer had over 400 attempts and over 3,000 yards passing between the two of them. Glennon isn’t necessarily better or worse than either of them, but without Jordan Howard, Glennon will be throwing 40 or more times a game. It’s too early to say if that makes Glennon a guy you need to have on your roster, but he will be worth keeping an eye on.
Cameron Meredith, WR – Meredith emerged as a legitimate fantasy wide receiver last season when the Chicago passing game self-destructed due to injuries. Meredith became the last man standing on a team that was throwing 45-50 times a game and he managed to finish as the team’s top pass-catcher with 66 receptions for 888 yards and 4 touchdowns. No Jordan Howard means the Bears are going to need to throw more than they did last season, and their most consistent pass-catcher should do well enough to warrant staying on your fantasy roster.
Kevin White, WR – White was the No. 7 overall pick in 2015, but his inability to stay healthy has him looking more like a bust than the future of the Chicago passing offense. White is going to be under a ton of pressure to perform or wash out this season, and White has done nothing to prove he can handle things. If Jordan Howard is lost for the season, there will be nothing to keep opposing defenses from coming after the quarterback every down. White will be a deep-threat, big-play receiver on a team that won’t have the time or the supporting cast to take advantage of his talents. Assuming he stays healthy which is a big if.
Just Jeremy Langford.
Mitchell Trubisky, QB – If you were banking on Trubisky to beat out Glennon for the starting job this season, losing Howard means Trubisky probably won’t see the field at all this season. Langford doesn’t scare anyone, and none of the other Chicago running backs are known for their pass protection. With opposing defenses pinning their ears back to come after the quarterback, you can bet the Bears will keep their future franchise quarterback on the sidelines for the rest of the season.
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