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Andre Johnson:Yards Worth the Lack of TD’s?

Andre Johnson Fantasy

After catching 112 balls for 1,598 yards last season, one would assume Andre Johnson should be fantasy gold in 2013. And yet that’s not the case. The 5-time All-Pro wide out may be elite on the field, but he falls a dollar short in the eyes of fantasy owners.

Andre Johnson Fantasy 2013

Andre JohnsonAfter catching 112 balls for 1,598 yards last season, one would assume Andre Johnson should be fantasy gold in 2013. And yet that’s not the case. The 5-time All-Pro wide out may be elite on the field, but he falls a dollar short in the eyes of fantasy owners. With an ADP of 11, the runner-up to Calvin Johnson in receiving last year is often still available as late as the fourth round – a WR2 in the eyes of most analysts. But how can that be? The answer is simple: Andre Johnson doesn’t score enough touchdowns.

Johnson only found the end zone four times in 2012 – startling, considering he caught 112 balls at a clip of 14.3 yards per catch. While many are quick to blame Matt Schaub’s shortcomings for this, the fault really rests on the shoulders of the Texans’ offensive coordinator, Rick Dennison. Since Dennison took over play-calling duties in 2010, Arian Foster has found the end zone 50 times. A mark matched by no one over that span. Meanwhile, as Foster piles up the TDs, Johnson’s fantasy value slowly diminishes. Normally I would blame the lack of TDs for a guy with stellar yardage numbers on poor luck, but not in this case. Johnson’s TD struggles are a product of the system.

Since Foster burst onto the scene just three years ago, Johnson has scored just 14 times. Factoring out games in which he missed due to injury, Johnson is averaging just 6 TDs per 16 games, in the presence of Foster. The numbers do a great job of conveying just how much of an afterthought Johnson is in the red zone.

2012 Red Zone Target Comparison:

PlayerRed Zone TargetsRed Zone ReceptionsRed Zone Touchdowns
Eric Decker251712
A.J. Green24138
Brandon Marshall23138
Demaryius Thomas2196
Julio Jones20117
Vincent Jackson20116
Roddy White2094
Larry Fitzgerald2082
Victor Cruz19106
Mike Williams1986
Reggie Wayne1994
Wes Welker18145
Calvin Johnson1762
Dez Bryant1494
Andre Johnson742

In 2012, Arian Foster had 86 red zone touches, which led the league by a long shot (Peterson: 65). Conversely, Andre Johnson was targeted in the red zone a mere 7 times!! He caught four of those balls for two touchdowns. To put that into perspective: Eric Decker was targeted 25 times (17 catches, 12 TDs); A.J. Green 24 times (13, 8); Brandon Marshall 23 times (13, 8); Marques Colston 23 times (17, 10); James Jones 20 times (14, 11).

Other league leaders in red zone targets: Demaryius Thomas (21); Julio Jones (20); Roddy White (20); Vincent Jackson (20); Larry Fitzgerald (20); Victor Cruz (19); Mike Williams (19); Reggie Wayne (19); Wes Welker (18); Calvin Johnson (17); Texan notables: Owen Daniels (12); Garrett Graham (6)

The Texans have a red zone identity – an identity that doesn’t include Andre Johnson. Of all the league’s top wide receivers, Johnson receives the least attention in the red zone. You would think ignoring one of the greatest wide receivers the game has ever seen would be a recipe for disaster, but that’s not the case. The Texans ranked in the top half of red zone TD efficiency in 2012. Their ground and pound red zone approach isn’t necessarily exciting football, but its effective football. Texan wide receivers get the shaft as a result.

Just a quick side: Many people have been quick to jump on the DeAndre Hopkins bandwagon. I would urge you to think twice about it. If Andre isn’t getting any red zone looks, what makes you think DeAndre would? Rookie wide receivers typically struggle to transition to the professional level of play. Even if Hopkins is decently productive between the 20s, he’ll still be an even bigger afterthought than Johnson in the red zone. People need to temper their expectations for DeAndre in 2013. But anyways, back to Andre.

Johnson is a physical freak with great hands. He’s very efficient catching passes. But unless he breaks a big play, the likelihood of him scoring is minimal. Playing in a weak division should help him flirt with 100+ catches again, but history would lead us to believe another 1,500 yard season is unlikely for Johnson. Jerry Rice is the only player to ever reach 1,500 yards after the age of 31.

At 32, Johnson has reached the typical age of decline for wide receivers. It would be safe to estimate his numbers will only dip going forward. Then again, it’s not like historical patterns haven’t mislead us in the past. After all, it was only a year ago we let Adrian Peterson fall to the third round of most drafts, devaluing his draft stock on the basis that a torn ACL was supposed to take two years to recover from. I don’t think anybody would be shocked to see Johnson eclipse 1,500 yards again in 2013. I’m just saying history would suggest the odds of it happening are unlikely. One thing should remain constant though. Unless Foster goes down with an unexpected injury, Johnson won’t be the first option in the red zone. In fact, it’s likely he won’t even be the second option.

As long as he’s reaching triple digits in catches, Johnson will be a stud in PPR leagues. But as he continues to age, and the catches come less often, Johnson’s lack of red zone production will really start to wear down his fantasy value. He still stands to produce in 2013, but I think the clock is ticking for Andre.

In fantasy, the touchdown is paramount. But it’s a luxury good Andre Johnson doesn’t provide to his fantasy owners. I think Johnson is appropriately valued as a WR2 in standard scoring formats this year and I wouldn’t reach for him as my WR1. As running back is thin this year, I could see him becoming a good value pick to be a WR1, but I wouldn’t expect WR1-type numbers from him. I see Randall Cobb, Victor Cruz and Vincent Jackson having more upside, as they are more of a threat to score.

Talbot’s Projections: 104 catches, 1,384 yards, 6 TDs

See if 2012’s Most Accurate Fantasy Expert, Jody Smith, agrees.

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