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Duke Johnson (RB, HOU) - 2019 Fantasy Football Sleeper

BALLER MOVE: Target Around ~140 Overall


ANALYSIS: The case of Duke Johnson is one of the most interesting ones as we approach the start of the season. He has featured heavily in the Browns offense for four straight years as a constant No. 2 RB option (behind Isaiah Crowell and now Nick Chubb). He's always logged more than 125 touches except for last season (87), and in 2017 he finished the year with 216.1 PPR points (RB11 and 44th-best overall). Now, he is part of a Texans' backfield that has Lamar Miller as the leading runner. But why he has lost that much ground in terms of ADP then?

For one, Johnson has never been a bell-cow back in any of his pro years, and in 2018 he lost more snaps than he ever did to both Nick Chubb and Carlos Hyde. That doesn't mean he is not a valuable player. In fact, he's one of the most productive and efficient players in the league. While only used in 40 rushing plays (Chubb did in 192 and Hyde in 114), he finished with a rushing DVOA of 7.2% (on par with Kareem Hunt or Joe Mixon, albeit on many fewer attempts), gaining 201 yards. Johnson registered 5.03 yards per attempt, a career-best mark and only 0.16 behind Chubb, and excelled in the passing game. That is where Johnson's true value lies.

Cleveland QBs targeted Johnson 62 times, more than rushes he attempted, and he caught 75.8% of the passes to finish with 47 receptions for 429 yards and tbree TD. We can see how productive he was by taking a look at every running back with at least a combined total of 100 pass targets+rush attempts. Duke Johnson was used via run or pass 102 times. In those, he amassed 630 total yards from scrimmage. But his YScm/Play in which he was used were a league-wide second-best 6.2 (only behind Jalen Richard; 6.37). Not even elite backs like Christian McCaffrey or Tarik Cohen came close.

As has been known for months, Duke Johnson had asked for a trade given the RB situation in Cleveland. The Browns brought Kareem Hunt to an already crowded backfield that will have Chubb as the No. 1 option this season at least until Hunt returns. Johnson got his demand fulfilled and is now a Houston Texan. He is going to keep a No. 2 role instead of leading the running operations there, but he profiles as the perfect complement to Lamar Miller (pretty bad in the passing game).

Although Houston doesn't use their running backs too much on passing situations, the addition of Johnson should turn the offense more in that direction and help Johnson improve his production. The upside is high for Duke Johnson and he could even subtract carries from Miller if he doesn't reach a certain level of production. Johnson should be a clear target in the mid-rounds on any PPR league.

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