As the 2016 Fantasy Football season arrives, it’s not a bad time to start doing some research to find this years sleeper pick(s). One running back that I will keep an eye on this season is Cleveland Browns playmaker, Duke Johnson, Jr.
Fantasy Football: Don’t Sleep on Duke Johnson, Jr.
With the hire of new Head Coach Hue Jackson, it’s hard to believe Browns second year running back Duke Johnson Jr. will suffer from a sophomore slump.
Many expect Coach Jackson to run an “offensive line-friendly offense” that focuses on a heavy run-game and a high-percentage passing game. That should lead to many dump offs and quick passes to Johnson out of the backfield. In 2015 Johnson caught 61 passes for 534 yards and two touchdowns. Only Theo Riddick, Danny Woodhead and Devonta Freeman had more receptions at running back than Johnson.
With the Browns trying to lean on their run game this upcoming season, Duke could also see increased rushing attempts in 2016. Jackson has had nothing but great things to say about the former Miami Hurricane. Even running backs coach Kirby Wilson has said that Duke Johnson is “an ultimate weapon”.
Another key factor in Johnson’s fantasy value is the overall competitiveness of the Cleveland Browns as a team. Many experts believe the Browns will not win more than four games in 2016. ESPN’s Dave McManamon predicts the Browns to finish with a 1-15 record. Cleveland won’t exactly be lighting up the scoreboard and will probably find themselves trailing most of their games, which will lead to the offense throwing the ball more often late in games, which will lead to more opportunities for the second year running back to make plays and impact the fantasy world.
Duke Johnson will have a far bigger impact in PPR leagues than in standard leagues, due to Isaiah Crowell getting most of the rushing attempts in that offense. Johnson only had one double-digit point outing in standard formats last year. But with a full year under his belt, and him entering camp healthy this year, I believe Duke will surpass his 2015 point total with ease.
Despite Crowell being first on Cleveland’s depth chart, Matthew Berry has Johnson ranked higher on his ESPN Player Rankings. Not only does Berry have Johnson ranked higher, but Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard and Heath Cummings from CBSSports has Johnson ranked higher than teammate Crowell as well.
In a PPR league, Johnson is a safe sixth or seventh round pick, and could fall further down in standard formats. I expect Johnson to double his fantasy points from last year and become a popular sleeper pick in this coming fantasy football season.
As for now I don’t see Duke Johnson, Jr. making a big impact in daily fantasy leagues. In 2015, he averaged a measly 8.36 points in FanDuel’s daily leagues and didn’t do much better in DraftKing’s leagues as he posted a 10.27 point average. I do believe his points per game will increase this season, but until he proves himself consistently in 2016, it will be hard for me to consider him in any daily fantasy league lineup.