Duke Johnson is Worth a Late Round Flier in Fantasy Football

Duke Johnson
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The Houston Texans like their Johnsons. After trading for Duke Johnson with the Cleveland Browns in 2019, they looked to the Arizona Cardinals in 2020 to acquire David Johnson. Both have similar skill sets in that they are versatile backs that can run and catch the ball well. While David Johnson has a higher ceiling as a fantasy producer, he hasn’t lived up to his potential in years despite beginning each season with the bell-cow role. Duke Johnson seems to have all the potential but has never been given the opportunity. But this could finally be his year, making him worthy of a late-round draft pick.

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Fantasy Football: Duke Johnson is Worth a Late Round Flier

Never Given a Shot

Johnson has never been given a shot in his NFL career. Despite looking like a more than capable dual-threat back, he is relegated to backup duties. On his career, he boasts a 4.4 yards-per-carry (YPC) average. And though he has never had more than 410 yards rushing, he also has never had less than 410 yards receiving.

Interestingly enough, both of those happened last year with the Texans. When the team traded for him, it looked like he would finally get his shot. Instead, the Texans made another trade, landing Carlos Hyde from the Kansas City Chiefs. It was like déjà vu for Johnson, who backed up Hyde with the Browns.

Hyde actually had a decent season, boasting the second-best yards-per-carry of his career, and breaking 1,000 yards rushing for the first time ever. However, he left in free agency to sign with the Seattle Seahawks. Unfortunately, it does not mean Johnson will get the starting job yet, as the team traded for David Johnson.

Might Finally Get it

On one hand, David Johnson has a little more name power than the Texans former back, Hyde. While Hyde had an under-the-radar season, Johnson continued a trend of underperformance and injuries that started back in 2017. He only managed 345 rushing yards and another 370 receiving yards. He only appeared in 13 games, losing the starting job after the Cardinals traded for Kenyan Drake. But the numbers are even worse. He had a paltry 3.7 YPC and 26.5 rushing yards per game.

He has basically been getting by on name value alone since his 2,000 scrimmage-yard seasons, all the way back in 2016. Since then, he hasn’t topped 3.7 YPC or gone over 1,000 yards rushing in a season. What kept him on the field so long was his pass-catching ability. He has still managed over 900 receiving yards the past two seasons.

But at this point in their careers, Duke Johnson can do both better than David Johnson. Perhaps the Texans felt that Hyde was the better pure rusher, and Duke the better pass-catcher. But in this case, given David Johnson’s terrible YPC, Duke is better in that regard. And as a receiver, he also had more yards and looks spryer than David.

Duke Johnson vs. David Johnson ADP and Value

David Johnson is obviously going to have every opportunity to keep the starting job, considering he is still one of the highest paid running backs in the league. But Johnson’s price compared to his production in drafts is still rather high. ESPN has him as the RB17. Looking at his risk-reward, it isn’t a terrible spot. And he is lumped in with a lot of the big names with even bigger question marks like Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell. The problem with David Johnson is he might just fade away completely like last season. Grabbing Gurley in that position is the better option, considering Gurley still has a great shot at producing for the year.

On the other hand, Duke Johnson is in that range where it is okay to take a chance on guys. He is rated all the way down as the RB44. This is around handcuffs like Alexander Mattison and Tony Pollard. Both of those backs have top-ten potential if their respective starter goes down. But if they are snatched up, Duke is the next best thing. He has a lower overall ceiling, but also a much better chance of hitting the field considering David Johnson’s history. And he can probably be started any week in a pinch since he will probably at least be somewhat involved.

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