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2023 Dynasty Fantasy Football Faller: Diontae Johnson

Diontae Johnson - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson was once viewed as a top-12 dynasty wide receiver, but even after a 147-target season, he is falling down the rankings.

Johnson has seen no fewer than 94 targets in his four-year career with the Steelers, but the switch from Ben Roethlisberger to Kenny Pickett proved to be problematic for his 2022 fantasy value and beyond. That said, there's a chance his perceived value has become much lower than what we can expect from him moving forward.

How did Johnson play in 2022, what is his current trade market in dynasty leagues, and what is his 2023 fantasy football outlook? Let's dive in.

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2022 Season In Review

With Mitch Trubisky under center through the first three weeks of the season, Johnson saw 12, 10, and 11 targets – posting 21 receptions for 196 yards and no touchdowns. Trubisky would struggle against the New York Jets in Week 4, seeing up Kenny Pickett for his first game action as a pro.

While Johnson was still heavily targeted with the 24-year-old rookie under center, his efficiency and overall fantasy production dipped. He was the WR24 up to Week 3 with Trubisky despite scoring no touchdowns but only posted one top-24 weekly finish after that point.

From Week 4 to Week 18, Johnson finished as the WR38 (PPR) – placing him behind the likes of Parris Campbell, Adam Thielen, Gabe Davis, Allen Lazard, and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Needless to say, his production didn't come close to what is expected of a top-15 dynasty wide receiver who carried a WR16 ADP (average draft position) into the season.

Johnson's final stats were 147 targets, 86 receptions, 882 yards, and zero touchdowns. He broke the NFL record for most targets without a touchdown and had his worst fantasy season since his rookie campaign.

Meanwhile, the dynasty community is becoming higher and higher on wide receiver George Pickens and tight end Pat Freiermuth, as both had solid seasons in their rookie and sophomore campaigns, respectively. With running back Najee Harris in the offense to take receiving volume too, there are plenty of fantasy managers worried about Johnson's future in the Pickett-led air attack.


Diontae Johnson Dynasty Value/Market

While all dynasty leagues vary and St. Brown's market value could be different from league to league, Keeptradecut.com is a rankings database where the pecking order is crowdsourced by the readers. That said, it's a helpful resource for getting an idea of what a player's value may be.

In single-QB dynasty formats, Johnson has fallen to the 76th-most valuable player – at WR34. He is currently placed behind rookies such as Quentin Johnston and Jordan Addison and right in the range of Christian Kirk, Marquise Brown, Zay Flowers, and Rashod Bateman.

Just about a year ago in April of 2022, Johnson was around the WR15 slot with a real chance to pass some aging veterans, so it has been a dramatical fall for his overall perceived value. At his current price, it would be difficult to get anywhere close to a late first-round rookie pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Ultimately, it might be tough to fetch a 2024 first-round selection for him from a contender.

Johnson's 2022 season was obviously a letdown, his freefall in the rankings has likely gone entirely too far – as I'll dive into below.


2023 Fantasy Football Outlook

After a down season, there are still plenty of reasons to believe a bounce-back season could be in order for the 26-year-old wideout from Toledo.


Diontae Johnson Advanced Stats and Metrics

As shown above, Johnson continued to have elite usage and opportunity, ranking inside the top 20 wideouts in targets, target share, target rate, snap share, routes run, route participation, air yards, air yards share, deep targets, red zone targets, receptions, and unrealized air yards. What more could you want?

The Steelers' offense passed for just 200.6 yards per game (ninth-fewest) and scored just 18.1 points per game (seventh-fewest). Naturally, fantasy assets on a low-scoring, mediocre offense are going to see regression. Likewise, wideouts with rookie quarterbacks often struggle and it's not that difficult to understand why. The NFL has a high learning curve, so the warning signs for a possible down season from Johnson were always there.

More importantly, Johnson remained the target hog in the offense. Johnson saw 49 more targets than Freiermuth and 63 more targets than Pickens. Johnson finished only behind Justin Jefferson, Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, CeeDee Lamb, and Travis Kelce in total targets. Elite company? I think so.

While we can't simply project the Steelers' offense to be a high-flying unit in 2023, reaching league-average passing numbers would be sufficient for Johnson to have a solid WR2 season. Touchdowns are tough to predict, but it's nearly impossible for Johnson to replicate the scoreless season he just had.

Pickens looks to have a massive ceiling with big-play ability on the outside, but the landscape of NFL offenses and defenses has changed. It's no longer the big-bodied X-receivers dominating fantasy football. Instead, players like Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyreek Hill, Justin Jefferson, and Keenan Allen are dominating PPR leagues with crazy volume in the intermediate parts of the field. Johnson has proven to be a high-usage wideout and he fits the mold of the players who are scoring big fantasy points in the early 2020s.

At his WR39 price in early Best Ball drafts via 4fo4 ADP, he could be a homerun selection. In dynasty leagues, see if your league mate holding Johnson is willing to move him for any second-round pick. Even if he underwhelms once again, he is being drafted at his absolute floor (barring injury) and it's hard to see any way his dynasty value gets even low. Draft him and buy now!

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