In my opinion, your fantasy football success hinges on the success of your running backs this year. Rudy projects about 50 receivers to have over 90 targets, which is enough WR to fill a standard 12-team league almost 5 men deep (for more on this, read my analysis/therapist book, The Man Inside Me). So, there’s about 50 WR who will score, on average in a PPR league, about 10 points/game or more. Meanwhile, there are 30 such RBs who are projected to score 10 points/per game in PPR scoring, meaning 2.5 RB per team. The lowest ADP of these running backs is Duke Johnson. I’ll tell you why you should take a swing with the Texans’ backup back, who could very well be the player who saves your fantasy playoff run in 2020.
Swinging with the Johnsons
Duke Johnson sits second on the depth chart of the Houston Texans, behind noted glass cannon David Johnson. Both Johnsons are coveted for their pass-catching ability (for more on Johnsons and catching ability, follow Donkey Teeth on Twitter). However, since 2015, it’s Duke Johnson that has the edge in pass catching numbers over David Johnson.
Obviously, David Johnson is the superior rusher over the time period, but David isn’t exactly elite in the ground game. Since 2017, David Johnson ranks 41st in yards per game, behind Tevin Coleman, LeSean McCoy, Carlos Hyde, Kerryon Johnson, and a whole bunch of other backs that exhausted their career too early. Given that David Johnson is averaging 42nd off the board–about the 4th round or so–that draft position seems a little expensive for a running back that has actually been on the field for about 75% of the games since 2018. Perhaps David Johnson doesn’t deserve the “fragile” tag, but he for sure doesn’t deserve to be drafted before Adam Thielen, Robert Woods, and Calvin Ridley by ADP.
Duke Johnson, meanwhile, hasn’t missed a game since 2015. In 2019, he was second in the league among running backs in yards per touch and ninth in the league in yards per carry when subtracting breakaway runs. Since 2017, Duke Johnson is 5th among RBs with 165 receptions, trailing Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, James White, and Tarik Cohen.
Compared to White (ADP 88) and Cohen (ADP 98) from 2017-2019, Duke Johnson has been significantly more efficient in his touches and rushes.
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Last year, Duke Johnson was on the field just as much as his committee-counterpart, Carlos Hyde, with each player taking the field for about 540 snaps. Meanwhile, David Johnson missed snaps due to injury and Kenyan Drake’s breakout. For 2020, Rudy predicts that Duke Johnson will actually be on the field more often than David Johnson, although the difference is a matter of about 20 snaps.
Drafting Duke Johnson isn’t a panacea to your fantasy ills, however. Texans’ offensive coordinator, Tim Kelly, was actually a more run-oriented offensive play caller, ranking 12th in the league in rushing attempts and ninth in yardage. If David Johnson stays healthy, he’ll pull Carlos Hyde-style numbers and cap Duke Johnson’s rushing ceiling. Furthermore, a healthy Texans’ receiver corps is a crowded room: Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, Kenny Stills, David Johnson, and Duke Johnson all project for at least 10% of targets. With tight ends Darren Fells, Jordan Aikins, and Razzball favorite Kahale Warring adding to the mix, that’s a lot of competition for targets.
Rudy has Duke Johnson as the 30th RB in PPR systems, and Donkey Teeth has Duke Johnson as RB39 overall (although a couple of recent signings might put Duke higher on DT’s list) With an ADP of round 11 in standard leagues, Duke Johnson is a great late-round upside play to bolster your running back corps. He’s incredibly efficient with his plays, and if David Johnson succumbs to an injury–or simply gets run out of a job like last year–Duke Johnson has the ceiling of an RB2 for your team.
Let me know what you’re thinking about the Johnsons in the comments below, and give me a follow on Twitter @everywhereblair.