Kerryon Johnson and Marlon Mack are relatively similar positions coming into 2020. They are both talented backs that have dealt with durability concerns over their career. They will also both have to deal with second-round rookies joining their teams. Those names are D’Andre Swift for the Detroit Lions and Jonathan Taylor for the Indianapolis Colts. Due to this, both are ranked rather similarly in half-point PPR leagues. Johnson is rated as the RB37 and Mack is the RB39. However, if given the choice, Johnson is the back that fantasy football team managers should target.
Fantasy Football: Draft Kerryon Johnson Over Marlon Mack
High-Ceiling, or High Floor?
Johnson has been hit by the injury bug more often than Mack. Last season, he was limited to just eight games, averaging 10 fantasy points-per-game during that span. However, the average doesn’t necessarily seem fair, as Johnson left week 7 with injury after only getting five carries. Take out that game, and Johnson’s average increases to 11.1. Still nothing special, but it is worth noting that he only had three games he played with under ten points. That was the game he left with an injury, his first game back from injury in week 16, and the first game of the season.
Mack only missed two games last season and averaged a healthy 12.5 points-per-game. However, Mack was much more inconsistent. Though he did have seven games where he scored at least 15 points, his other seven games he didn’t make it to ten. As a comparison, Johnson only topped 15 points once. Basically, it means Mack has a 50 percent chance of busting when he is in lineups, but Johnson has an overall higher floor.
Mack’s trend was a continuation of 2018. Again, in six of his 12 games he appeared in, he was held to under ten fantasy points. A huge reason for his sporadic point totals is the fact that he is not very involved in the passing game. His highest catch total was his rookie year, with 21, but has seen his receptions fall each year since then. Last season he only had 14 reception all season. This makes his floor a legitimate concern despite his weekly boom potential as the starter.
Admittedly, Johnson wasn’t much better in the receiving category in 2019. He caught ten passes on the year, but nine of them were before he got hurt. When he returned, the Lions limited his usage. However, his rookie season gives a much better idea for his potential in that category. Though he started the season with only limited action and was eventually limited to just ten games, Johnson caught 32 of 39 targets. This gives Johnson value and could help him stay on the field at times when Mack might have to leave.
The wild card here is another Colts running back, Nyheim Hines. Hines has been trying to establish himself as the receiving back for Indy, seeing a healthy 107 targets over the past two seasons. And their new quarterback, Philip Rivers, loves his receiving backs, using the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson, Danny Woodhead, and Austin Ekeler during his many years with the Los Angeles Chargers.
On the Lions end, they don’t really have another back other than Swift to threaten for touches. This means that at worst, there could be a solid rotation between Swift and Johnson. Swift could still threaten Johnson for pass-catching work, as he is seen as a more-than-capable receiver. However, most backs struggle in pass protection their first season, meaning Johnson could get the nod on third downs. But in Mack’s case, Taylor basically does everything he does better. He already doesn’t have a shot at receiving work behind Hines.
Final Verdict: Kerryon Johnson
All things considered, Mack could find himself the odd back out in fantasy and become obsolete. He has a higher floor and can probably be trusted more in terms of injury concerns compared to Johnson. At the same time, Johnson might benefit from reduced usage now that Swift is in the fold. If he stays healthy, he might not have the highest ceiling, but he is someone that players can trust not to completely bust even if they have to put him in their lineups during the fantasy championship.
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