[dropcap]S[/dropcap]tevie Johnson is consistently consistent. No seriously, the six-year veteran is coming off of his third-straight 1,000-yard performance and quietly flying under the radar as one the safest picks in fantasy football. Considering his production and ability to play in all 16 games the past three seasons, Johnson continues to set himself aside as one of the better fantasy wide receiver options as you begin rounding out your team’s roster on draft day. Stevie Johnson is not to be confused with the game’s elite fantasy wide receivers, but he should still be considered as a valuable 2nd or 3rd wide receiver or flex option. An option, no matter what the circumstances, that will make a viable contribution week in and week out. Remember, any owner can draft Calvin Johnson in round one; owners destined to win championships also have a roster full of Stevie Johnson types.
For every yard Stevie Johnson gained over the past three seasons, there seems to be an equal number of questions as to whether or not he can meet and/or exceed his previous career standards. Will he stay healthy? Who is going to throw him the ball? These questions seem to plague Johnson on a yearly basis and each year he is able to overcome them and remain fantasy relevant. Last season, Johnson battled through some nagging injuries and was still able to build enough of a rapport with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Over the past three seasons, Johnson has averaged 1,041 yards, 79 receptions and 7.6 touchdowns per year.
Despite what seem like insurmountable obstacles at times, Johnson was able to remain relatively productive on a team that has not made the playoffs in the last 13 years and with an average at best Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. In 2012, Fitzpatrick sported an 83.3 passer rating and ranked 32nd in the league in passes that traveled over twenty yards. These inefficiencies in the passing game likely cost Johnson additional yards, touchdowns and the ability to take his fantasy standing to the next level.
Once again though, stop me if you’ve heard this one, the Buffalo Bills are in the midst of yet another round of rebuilding. Gone are previous starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and head coach Chan Gailey and in come new head coach Doug Marrone and either rookie E.J. Manuel or veteran Kevin Kolb as the Bills starting quarterback.
Stevie Johnson Career Stats
Heading into the 2013 campaign, the Bills are faced with what should be a closely watched camp battle for the starting quarterback job. Kolb, who sports a 79.9 career quarterback rating over 34 appearances, enters camp as the likely favorite to at least start the season as the number one quarterback. Surprise first-round draft pick E.J. Manuel, who amassed 3,397 yards passing, 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season at Florida State, brings a game probably better suited to help Johnson excel.
Manuel is a big, strong-armed mobile quarterback who is not afraid to take chances downfield. While his likely high turnover rate and lack of NFL maturity will cause his own fantasy relevance to suffer, this attacking style, in combination with what should be an up-tempo more aggressive offense under Marrone, could help Stevie Johnson’s fantasy value soar.
Sure, Johnson can drop the easy pass or two, ranked seventh in dropped passed in 2012 with 11, but he also has a flare for the dramatic and often makes the catches that he should not have. Johnson is professional route runner and will do what ever it takes to win on Sunday. Johnson, who often faces an opposing defenses number one cornerback, saw 29% of the passes thrown go his way in 2012. With a relatively new supporting cast, lead by rookie second-round pick Robert Woods, this will likely remain the case once again this season in Buffalo. Regardless of who wins the starting quarterback job though, Johnson has demonstrated that it does not take a good quarterback, or that much else, to help him succeed.