When I ranked Kerryon Johnson 18th overall in my Top 200 Dynasty Rankings for 2020 Fantasy Football, I had no idea it would be more scrutinized than the final season of Game of Thrones. I had a feeling I might sit perched alone on the Iron Throne as the high man on the Lions’ young runner, but wasn’t aware the dynasty football world would look down on me in shame like the family’s drunken-disappointment-dwarf brother. But can this ugly-step-child use his wit, intellect and Medium Johnson to overcome the prejudice of the fantasy world? Or is Donkey just trippin’ again? Truth be told, I always eat a dozen doses of LSD before I write; really gets the creative juices flowing. Anyway, let’s take a closer look at Kerryon Johnson’s first two professional seasons and what the future might hold for 2020 fantasy football and beyond.
In his 2018 rookie season, Kerryon rumbled for 854 yards from scrimmage and 4 touchdowns in his first 10 games prior to missing the final six contests with a knee injury. This while only taking 15 or more carries in three of those games, and not reaching 20 totes even once. Johnson also flashed his big hands, catching 32 of 39 passes—you know what they say about Johnson’s with big hands.
The fantasy realm was thoroughly hyped over our man’s impressive 2018 tally of 5.4 yards per carry which was good for #2 in the NFL behind only Aaron Jones. His ridiculous rookie highlight reel was compiled on only 150 touches and helped fuel the hype-machine. The acceleration, sharp cuts, ability to break outside and physicality, are flat out fun to watch:
But as you might be aware, The Wayward Son missed eight more games this past season with yet another knee injury—Greg Oden called and he wants his knees back! Anyway, here’s to hoping Kerryon’s more Forrest Gump than Lieutenant Dan.
The crowd of skeptics also point to his decreased efficiency as major cause for concern. Big Johnson logged only 3.57 yards per carry in his sophomore season, a far cry from that 5.4 YAC of his rookie campaign. If we dig a little deeper into those numbers the concern should soften.
In his five and a half games prior to injury, Kerryon faced the elite Eagles run defense, near elite Vikings and well above average Cardinals run D. 20 of his 113 season carries came against the Eagles brick wall unit where he tallied only 1.8 yards per carry. This is an already tiny sample size–that’s what she said–even further tainted by tough matchups, bad game scripts and limited usage in his return.
The real question isn’t talent, nor production when on the field, but rather if he can stay on the field and how Detroit will utilize him when he’s out there. After all, the Lions’ last great fantasy back not named Barry Sanders was a guy by the name of Whizzer White back in 1940. And even Whizzer wet the bed at times. A hesitation to toss their youngster into a bell cow role in 2020 after two injury riddled seasons would be more than understandable.
So yes, the #18 ranking is overly aggressive for a kid with very real red flags. He’s dealt with injuries at every level. But consider Leonard Fournette, and to a lesser extent Dalvin Cook, have as well. And they each just logged 15 and 14 game seasons respectively.
Kerryon battled through 36 games in his three seasons at Auburn, while Fournette played in 32 games in his three years at LSU and Cook 38 games in his three years at Florida State. These two other horses are coming off 265 and 250 carry seasons and fans will be happy to spend early first and second round picks on them come draft season. Yet those same folks are already comfortable writing the 22 year old Auburn product off.
Some players give you the butterflies like Ramsay Bolton on the verge of castrating an enemy. Kerryon Johnson is one of those guys for me. I mean a player who gives me the butterflies. I’m not into that castration stuff, anymore.
Anyway, there’s a reason he was compared to Le’Veon Bell out of college. Only a handful of backs have the talent to make the leap up into the elite fantasy running back group in 2020; this is one of them and he’s only 22 years old with a minuscule 231 career carries under his belt. There’s a ton of tread left on these tires.
I admit, this is a statement ranking. A sort of planting of the flag. I trust the cream will rise to the top and believe there’s a decent chance for a couple 13-14 game seasons prior to free-agency when he’ll be a spry 25 years old with less than 750 career carries under his belt. The time to invest is now.
Bottom line, this buy-signal isn’t for everyone. You’ll need a Robert Baratheon sized appetite for risk if you’re poking your head thru the Kerryon buy-window, which might actually be a dull guillotine. Think of top 10 dynasty player for the next 5 years, or oft injured committee member of the small-council, both as very possible outcomes. I’ve visited Bronn the Master of Coin and taken out four mortgages on the barn to bet on the former.