The Case for David Johnson at 1.01

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an article by Fantasy Football Flow

The fantasy season is just around the corner and it’s time to prepare to win your league.

Most people will consider there to be four options for the first pick in fantasy drafts this year: Barkley, CMC, Kamara, and Zeke. However, I’d add David Johnson into that mix. 

The Case for DJ

To begin we’re going to look at historical data about DJ, which isn’t always the best, but in this instance provides a nice perspective. In 2016, David Johnson led all RBs by a large margin, as he had over 2,100 scrimmage yards, 80 receptions, and 20 total TDs. In that year, the Cardinals ranked 9th in total yards, and 6th in scoring. Now, fast forward to the 2018 season, where DJ finished as the 9th RB in fantasy, totaling nearly 1,400 yards, 50 receptions and 10 TDs. Those numbers are far off from his 2016 season, but let’s look at how the Cardinals performed in 2018. The Cardinals finished dead last in total yards, and dead last in scoring. So obviously DJ’s fantasy production takes a hit because of how well his offense performed. Now, I’m going to compare a ratio from his 2016 and 2018 season and explain why he is almost guaranteed to have a better season than 2018. So, in 2016, DJ had 2,118 scrimmage yards and the Cardinals had 5,868 yards, which means DJ accounted for 36.1% of his team’s total yardage. Now in 2018, DJ had 1,386 scrimmage yards and the Cardinals had 3,865 yards, which means DJ accounted for 35.9% of his team’s total yardage. Therefore, if the Cardinals can at least move out of the cellar and into the 25th spot, they’d have around 5,000 total yards and at his 36% ratio, DJ would have around 1,800 scrimmage yards. However, I do expect his ratio of yards to team yards to drop because of the addition of Kyler Murray who will rush for some yards, as well as throw the ball around a ton. Another major thing that will impact DJ is new HC, Kliff Kingsbury. Kingsbury is a wildcard because he is bringing in his “air raid” offense, where there’ll be tons of 4-WR sets, with DJ in the backfield. Kingsbury has been one of the best college play callers for a handful of years now, in his 6-years at Texas Tech, his team ranked in the top 10 in passing, top 20 in total offense and finished in the top 25 in scoring in all but one year. His teams have averaged at least 30 PPG, 470 YPG and 300 Passing YPG. Although Kingsbury coached in the Big 10, where defense is scarce at best, these numbers are still incredible and will likely translate decently well to the NFL. At bare minimum, the Cardinals will finish as a better offensive team than 2018, because they were by far the worst team in 2018. Finally, a very important factor in the success of a running back is the offensive line, and in 2018 the Cardinals line was abysmal, as they ranked bottom 4 in most categories, while also playing less snaps then other teams. Their line isn’t much better in 2019, but there are some minor improvements that should propel them out of the bottom 4, therefore, DJ should see some more running lanes and may see an uptick in efficiency.

The Case Against DJ

There are a lot of uncertainties surrounding DJ in 2019. For example, he has a rookie QB, a rookie HC and an offensive line that is still terrible. Kyler Murray comes onto a Cardinals team that has many holes still and may struggle in his 1st season adapting from the college game to the NFL game. Secondly, Kingsbury is a rookie NFL coach as he has never had an OC or HC job before and he may face some challenges against more advanced defenses. Finally, the offensive line is still projected to be in the bottom 5-10 and will struggle to protect Murray and create running lanes for DJ.

Currently, I have DJ as my clear 5th RB, decently far ahead of the guys behind him and close to Zeke who I have at 4th. I can easily see DJ returning to the top of the RBs, as I have very high expectations of Murray, Kingsbury and the Cardinals offense. DJ may move up to 4th if Zeke’s holdout lasts deep into the preseason, as he’ll likely face “rust” in the first game or two, similar to how Bell was rusty in the first game of 2017. 

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