Crank Up the Volume: David Johnson
by Ryan Wiebe
Yes.. Bill O’Brien might be a little “out there”. He might be one of the most grossly incompetent NFL GM’s of recent memory, but he’s determined to at least make the most of what was one of the biggest head-scratcher trades of the NFL off-season. B.O.B decided to continue moving draft capital, giving up yet another 2020 pick (4th round), plus one of the top 3 receivers in the NFL, in the middle of his prime, for a running back nearing the ever-scary age of 30 who spent a large chunk of the 2019-2020 NFL season injured, and then came back from that injury appearing to have the elusiveness of a school bus. Everyone has seen the clip, but here it is anyway!
With all that being said, O’Brien has without a doubt invested heavily in Johnson, and as I said, is trying to prove that he is at the very least, less inept than he seems to be. We can expect that DJ will receive the lion's share of the workload out of the Texans backfield. We can also expect that he can’t possibly look any less elusive than he did against the Bucs in November. We are certainly a long way removed from the 2,100+ yard, 20 TD season that DJ put together in 2016 with the Cardinals. However, we can’t ignore that we are just one season removed from him putting together over 1,000 all-purpose yards with 10 TD’s.
The two most important things in terms of fantasy production are opportunity and talent. DJ is clearly talented. Not many guys who aren’t talented are capable of putting together a 2,100 yard and 20 TD season together. And though Deshaun Watson is also incredibly talented, until the Texans offensive line is okay with not letting pass rushers through to chase Watson around, the recipe is definitely there for a lot of check-downs and dump-offs to DJ to work magic with. All of the sudden we have some added opportunity (and remember, Bill O’Brien wants there to be opportunity too!).
DJ is being drafted in the late third/early 4th round in ESPN drafts at the time of writing this. Right around the range of Le’Veon Bell, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and just ahead of Melvin Gordon. Of those four, Johnson certainly has less to compete with in the backfield than MG3 or CEH do, and a far better offense than Bell does. (Say what you want about B.O.B. as a GM, but as a coach he has at least been adequate...something Adam Gase seems to know nothing about). We don’t need to lie to ourselves and think that Johnson is going to be replicating his massive 2016 output, but he is certainly capable of putting up numbers to be a high-end RB2...especially in PPR and .5 PPR formats. O’Brien is certainly capable of willing Johnson into at least a top-15 finish this season. If you’re picking early in your draft and end up with an early RB/WR/WR/QB type look (CMC, Lamar Jackson, Golladay for example), DJ could be a solid RB2 for you and allow you to look for some other solid receiver options.
Even if there are some warning signs out there, be ready. David Johnson is going to put up some solid RB2 numbers this season (*as long as he stays healthy). Count on it.
You can follow me on Twitter @ryanwiebe12