David Johnson was on top of the football world two years ago. He was coming of an all time great season in which he almost posted 1000+ rushing and 1000+ yards receiving in the same season. He had scored 16 touchdowns through the ground and 4 through the air. As a result of his spectacular season Johnson was the number one pick in many drafts the following year. However, he suffered a season ending wrist injury in Week 1 and his stock has fallen ever since. After an unspectacular 2018, few are talking about David Johnson as one of the top running backs in the league. The hot new toys on the block are Melvin Gordon, Nick Chubb, Phillip Lindsay, Joe Mixon, e.t.c. While those are all undoubtedly great players, David Johnson is still an amazing player who will not only finish as Top Ten RB, he will finish above all the aforementioned players in 2019.
It is no secret that Johnson was criminally misused in 2018. The Cardinals offense was uninspired in using the star running back. He was rarely lined out wide or motioned around the offense. The amount of HB Dives the Cardinals ran with no variation was maddening and a waste of Johnson’s talent. Equally as infuriating was the fact that Johnson lined out wide on only 3.5% of his snaps through Week 7. That is simply not acceptable for a player who is one of the best receivers, regardless of position, in the league. It was very relieving, then, to hear new Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury make a commitment to properly utilizing David Johnson in 2019: Speaking about his offensive approach in 2019, Kingsbury said the following: “Our deal is a little more balanced. David Johnson is a tremendous asset. He’s a guy who can come out of the backfield, go between the tackles, you can motion him out, he’s a mismatch in space. I can’t wait for our offensive coaches to get their hands on him and use him as many ways as possible.” (via sportingnews.com) Obviously, it’s good to see David Johnson being in the mind of the new head coach and recognizing his abilities. Kingsbury openly acknowledges the talent and correctly identifies Johnson’s best traits, something that Mike McCoy failed to understand in his short stint as the Cardinals offensive coordinator. Kingsbury has been adamant about the fact that Johnson NEEDS his touches, so look for Johnson to be utilized significantly heavier than he was in 2018.
Johnson is a powerful and fast back that can hurt teams in the ground, but it is his excellence in the passing game that separates him from everyone else. After two disappointing seasons, it’s easy to forget that Johnson was being compared to Marshall Faulk after his sensational 2016 season. But don’t forget how much a bad offensive scheme can harm a running back. It was just two years ago that Todd Gurley was being looked at like a first round bust after a horrific sophomore campaign under Jeff Fisher. After that horrific campaign, Sean McVay arrived and turned Todd Gurley into a fantasy stud. Will Johnson suddenly start churning out 30+ point weeks regularly? Probably not. Kingsbury is not McVay and it is unfair to expect that from Johnson. At the same time, there is precedent for the situation that David Johnson is currently entering. With the improvement from the Cardinals offense and more playmakers, defenses will not be able to stack the box as often in 2019. All of this bodes well for Johnson. Johnson will likely not be a first round pick in next year’s drafts, providing him with excellent value in season long leagues. In Dynasty leagues, do not sell Johnson low. He is a proven RB1 with the potential to match his 2016 numbers under the right direction. Investing in Johnson could be the first step towards a fantasy championship in 2019.