Over/Under-Rated, Duke Johnson, 11Jul17

Jul 11, 2017

By: @SMich_5


Perhaps the only constant in Fantasy sports is change, and in fantasy football that change manifests itself especially fast. Players can see their ADP swing a round or two in a single day with what may ultimately turn out to be nothing more than a minor injury. Fantasy players as a whole love to try outsmarting one another by using anything to our advantage, but that also creates opportunities. Every year there are players that slip through the cracks and some that rise only to fall and bring our seasons down with them. I want to take some time and showcase players who I believe are being incorrectly valued, either over or under, and how you can take advantage.


Duke Johnson Jr.

Current ADP: 153 (12 Team, Standard Scoring)

There has been a lot made of Isaiah Crowell’s chances for continued success after a mini-breakout of sorts last year. For a very minor investment, players who took a chance on him last year were rewarded with a top 15 RB for the cost of 8th or 9th round pick. In a lost season (or a typical Browns season, however you want to look at it), Crowell managed to rush for 952 yards and added another 319 through the air. Now, an adjustment has been made, and Crowell is being drafted exactly as if he is going to match that production, as RB14. So that’s it, nothing to see here. Fantasy fans have figured out another player and we can move on, right? Maybe.

Despite that rambling opening, I’m not here to talk about Isaiah Crowell, but I kind of spoiled that already. I’m here to talk about another Browns RB that needs some consideration and should be a late round target for standard leagues and a must have for PPR leagues: Duke Johnson, who is currently grossly undervalued.

Johnson is currently being drafted in the 13th round of 12 team standard leagues and the 10th round of 12 team PPR leagues, and has seen that ranking climb in both formats over the last month. It should continue to do so as we get closer to draft time but there is still time to hop on the bandwagon.



Beyond the normal handcuff discussion, Johnson has value and is much more likely to exceed his draft position than his backfield mate. Johnson is still going to be running behind a an offensive line that last year ranked 31st in rushing attempts per game, but was so efficient, 2nd in the NFL in yards per rushing attempt, that they still finished in the middle of the pack in terms of yards per game (18th to be exact). Keep in mind this was all done with the collection of Cody Kessler, Josh McCown, and Robert Griffin III as the top three QBs. This was also before the Browns signed offensive linemen J.C. Tretter (who, by the way, is Cleveland’s FOURTH Ivy Leaguer currently on the roster) and Kevin Zeitler in free agency and perhaps more importantly, didn’t trade Joe Thomas. This is a unit that might soon rival what Dallas has built the last few years. We’ve seen them at their worst and we can reasonably set our expectations of their floor as far as RB production, and it was a very usable fantasy asset. Johnson stacks up well with Crowell in some of the advanced metrics:


This shows us that while Crowell did have a higher DYAR, that statistic is skewed by his larger work load. If you look at their DVOA numbers which is a better metric for looking at the value of a given player on a per play basis, the gap closes. While thinking about that, consider that Crowell has the worst yards after contact for RBs with more than 300 carries since 2014. One injury to Crowell moves Johnson up significantly and that’s before even acknowledging the very real possibility that they switch positions on the depth chart without an injury.

Still, even if you don’t want to burn a pick speculating on an RB injury for a non-elite offense, Johnson’s greatest value to his team is as a receiver. Look at how Johnson compares here with Crowell:


Not only does Johnson blow away in every meaningful metric, he ranks as one the best pass catching backs in the league. Going by DYAR, the three names that are ahead of him are a couple of guys you might have heard of: David Johnson, LeVeon Bell, and James White. Two of those guys will not make it out of the first round, and if you are worried about the James White comp, remember this: guess which team just lost its best receiver over the offseason? Yeah, the Browns. Obviously. Seriously, were you expecting someone else? Anyway, gone are Terrelle Pryor and his team leading 140 targets, and the only other guy ahead of Johnson last year was Gary Barnidge. Keep in mind, though, that Cleveland has a bright, new, shiny toy in the form of first round draft pick David Njoku, who tested as one of the most physically gifted TEs in the draft. Even if he is a bust, it will draw some targets away from Barnidge before we can make that determination. If you’re worried about Kenny Britt, don’t. Before last year his career highs for receptions and yards were 48 and 775, respectively. He and second year man Corey Coleman might split up some of Pryor’s targets, but I’m willing to bet that Johnson also sees a bump.


Duke Johnson is returning to a team with an improved line that already excelled last year, with a clearly defined role and the only guy standing in his way of the starting gig has one successful year and has an inferior receiving skill set. Johnson has the skills to be an elite receiver and is being drafted as an afterthought in most leagues. Don’t be the guy picking a boring vet with little upside or an unknown rookie with no clear role. For less than what Crowell cost last year, you can draft someone with the skills to surpass what he accomplished.

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