Duke Johnson to the Texans
The fantasy football world was set ablaze this week when the Houston Texans acquired Duke Johnson from the Cleveland Browns for a 2020 4th round pick. It will become a 3rd round pick if Johnson plays at least 10 games in 2019. The Browns used a 3rd round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft draft (77th overall) to select Johnson.
Johnson, a popular flex level talent among fantasy football players, had requested a trade from Cleveland in hopes of landing a larger role. The Texans cut their projected backup running back D’Onta Foreman earlier this week and are looking for an immediate impact from Johnson. On the surface, this appears to be a great move on all sides from an NFL perspective, but it has resounding effects on the fantasy football world. Let’s dig into a player by player analysis of those most affected by the situation.
Duke Johnson, RB, Houston Texans: Stock Way Up
Johnson has been a fairly efficient weapon in what has otherwise been an unstable offense in Cleveland. He has averaged 4.3 yards/carry over just 299 carries in his 4-year career. Last season he ran the ball just 40 times but averaged 5 yards/carry. He has been more dangerous as a receiver. He has averaged 52 receptions, 542 receiving yards, and 2 receiving touchdowns per season over his career. In 2017 he caught 74 of his 93 targets (79%) for 693 yards and three touchdowns.
Prior to the trade, I had Johnson ranked as my RB49 in redraft PPR format. I expected him to contribute to Cleveland’s passing game and produce at a level consistent with his efficient career averages. I could not, however, see a path for him to get significant carries with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt (following his 8 game suspension). Without a clear role, he was a talented player trapped by lack of opportunity and could not even qualify as an RB4 in my 2019 projections.
As a result of his move to Houston, I have Johnson ranked as RB27 in PPR formats; an overall increase of 22 spots. Houston offers Johnson more opportunity to contribute in both the running and passing game. In particular, I expect Johnson to pull in about 60 receptions for the Texans; which would put him on par with Fuller and Coutee in terms of targets. 550 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns is also achievable for Johnson, who will be the primary check-down option in a high octane offense with poor offensive line play.
Lamar Miller, RB Houston Texans: Stock Down
Miller is a workhorse running back that has a reputation for mediocrity. That reputation has been mostly deserved, especially in 2016 & 2017; when he had the most hype. In those two seasons, Miller ran the ball a combined 506 times and averaged just 3.8 yards/ carry. In those two seasons, Miller finished as RB 19 and RB16 in PPR formats. In 2018, though, Miller ran for 973 yards on just 210 attempts, an average of 4.6 yards per carry-showing a significant improvement in efficiency. Miller also ran for 5 touchdowns, an improvement over his 2017 total. In 2018 Miller finished as RB23 in PPR formats.
Prior to the trade, I had Miller ranked as my RB17 in redraft PPR format. I brought him closer to his career average in carries and reflected his improved efficiency. Still, it was clear that Miller’s work was going to be limited to the running game regardless of whether it was Foreman or someone else catching passes from Watson.
Miller is the biggest loser in this trade. Miller’s RB2 projection was primarily a result of him being the only proven option in the running game and the primary check-down option for Watson. With Johnson in town, though, Miller’s lack of contribution to the passing game, especially in touchdown potential, will hurt his fantasy stock tremendously-even if his role in the running game remains the same. He dropped to RB31 in redraft PPR formats.
Nick Chubb, RB Cleveland Browns: Stock Up
After a slow start, Chubb broke out in his rookie campaign; justifying the early second-round draft pick the Browns used on him in 2018. Chubb did not see any significant work in the Browns first 6 games of 2018, but benefitted from the mid-season coaching changes that led to Freddie Kitchens taking the reins of the offense. From Weeks 7-17, Chubb ran for 849 yards on 176 carries (4.8 yards/carry) and 6 touchdowns. Chubb also caught 68% of his 29 targets for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns. He finished as RB17 in PPR formats, despite only seeing significant playing time in 10 games.
It was puzzling for most when Cleveland announced their controversial signing of Kareem Hunt. It was even more confusing for Chubb owners, who had to try and project his role in the 2019 Cleveland offense. Chubb is still a workhorse type back that can earn 225+ carries and pile up yards (and fantasy football points) if he can keep up his 2018 efficiency. With Hunt and Johnson in the offense, though, I found it difficult to project Chubb for a significant role in the passing game; he is my RB22 in PPR formats in 2019, prior to the trade.
Chubb’s stock raises as a result of this trade, in what feels to be a perfect market correction. Chubb is now the clear workhorse back in a dangerous offense, giving him more carries and likely an increase in touchdowns. He also should see an improvement in the passing game; in terms of receptions, yards, and touchdowns. His production will still be front-loaded, but fantasy football players should still expect an RB1 season from Chubb, who is now my RB10 in redraft PPR format.
Kareem Hunt, RB Cleveland Browns: Stock Holds
Although he must be mentioned in this discussion, Hunt’s stock is the least affected by the trade. I believe the majority of Hunt’s production will still come from Chubb’s share of the running game after he returns from suspension. Hunt, however, does gets slight bump from some of the 35 vacated receptions I had assigned to Johnson in Cleveland.
Hunt was ranked as my RB38 in PPR redraft formats prior to the trade. Following the transaction, he is now my RB37. Hunt would have essentially replaced Johnson’s role in Cleveland, so his departure only means a slight bump in touches for Hunt.
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