Duke Johnson was acquired by the Houston Texans in early August and projected to serve in a complementary role to then RB1 Lamar Miller. Then, much to the disdain of Houston fans, Miller would tear his ACL in preseason action. Stock up for Duke, right? Hold your horses.
Since being brought aboard, the former Cleveland Browns running back has been hampered by a hamstring injury. Duke did not play a single preseason snap with his new team. To further question his fantasy value, Houston brought in Johnson’s former teammate Carlos Hyde to lighten his workload. It was Hyde, not Johnson who served as the Browns starting running back during their shared tenures in Cleveland.
However in Houston’s initial release of their week one depth chart it’s Duke Johnson who sits atop the running back pecking order for the Texans.
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Duke Johnson Fantasy Outlook vs. New Orleans Saints
Johnson has served as a change of pace/receiving back for the majority of his career. A role that he dominated during his time with Cleveland. In fact, in 2011 Duke was a borderline RB1 in PPR formats, finishing the season as the 11th highest scoring fantasy running back.
Many question if Duke Johnson has the frame to be an every-down back in Houston. However, Johnson, who checks in at 5’9″, and 210 lbs. is more than big enough to man the lead back role in Houston’s spread out offense. While Johnson has never served in this role before, it wasn’t too long ago that Johnson was being likened to former NFL greats Walter Payton and Barry Sanders for the damage he could do on the ground.
Duke has a huge opportunity to flex his run game prowess vs. the New Orleans Saints on Monday night. The Saints are expected to be thin between the tackles. New Orleans will be without defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, while linebackers Alex Anzalone and Craig Robertson’s availability is up in the air.
Even if the run game faltered for Houston on Monday, Duke’s ability to affect the game through the air is nearly unparalleled in today’s NFL. Fortunately for Johnson owners, the Saints defense had their fair share of mishaps in defending running backs out of the backfield in 2018. The Saints ranked tied for the second-most receiving touchdowns allowed to running backs a season ago.
Should You Start or Sit Duke Johnson in Week 1?
The short answer is yes. Duke’s upside is ridiculous, and he has the talent and matchup to reach it. Don’t let the arrival of Hyde detour you from the obvious, Johnson is the superior player, and a player that the Texans highly sought after. While Hyde is on his fifth team in just slightly over two seasons, and may very well be on the last leg of his NFL career.
Johnson is a lock to be Houston’s RB1 this season, and a likely RB2 in fantasy football. It will be the Duke Johnson show in Houston this season, and it all begins in week one. Start Johnson in all your fantasy lineups, and reap the benefits.
If you still for some reason have your worries about inserting Johnson in your lineup, do your self a favor and peep these highlights below to ease your qualms.
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