Houston Texans running back David Johnson has quickly gone from the Belle of the ball to NFL afterthought, seemingly overnight. However, his production has actually remained quite impressive from a fantasy football perspective. Johnson has finished as RB9 or better in three of the past five seasons, including a 2016 campaign where he led all running backs in PPR scoring.
Unfortunately, a slew of injuries has stripped some trust from fantasy owners. Can Johnson work his way back into good graces and return to his must-start form against the defending Super Bowl champs tonight? Let’s discuss.
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David Johnson’s Fantasy Outlook vs. Kansas City Chiefs
David Johnson’s redemption tour kicks off in Kansas City tonight. The NFL’s 2016 all-purpose yards leader has battled injuries in two of the last three seasons, leading to the former All-Pro losing his grip on the starting job with the Cardinals a season ago. Following the arrival of Kenyan Drake in Arizona back in Week 9, Johnson would go on to carry the football a total of just 17 times for the rest of the year.
However, volume shouldn’t be much of a concern for Johnson in his new city. The Texans finished 2019 as the league’s ninth-best rushing offense in football, while their leading rusher Carlos Hyde finished the year as one of only 16 backs to crack the 1,000-yard rushing barrier. Hyde is now in Seattle, leaving behind 245 carries that will need to be manned. More than likely the brunt of those will go to Johnson, as their other Johnson, Duke Johnson, hasn’t carried the football more than 83 times in a single season since his rookie year back in 2015.
That’s all fine and dandy, but D.J. is washed, right? He’s no good anymore. Not so fast. Has Johnson battled injuries in recent years? Most certainly. Yet, when on the field, the 28-year-old has remained one of the most elite all-purpose fantasy backs in all of football.
Prior to injury, Johnson was the sixth-highest scoring running back in fantasy throughout the first six weeks of 2019. His 20.2 points per game average over that span outpaced the likes of elite talents such as Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara. Furthermore, he owned a healthy eight targets per game average as a receiver over five of those six games. Just as with Hyde in the run game, DeAndre Hopkins’s exit from Houston leaves targets up for grabs in the Texans offense and Johnson is likely to absorb a solid chunk of those.
While Johnson’s opponents tonight may carry the mystique of being a Super Bowl-winning defensive unit, they were actually one of the most giving defenses to opposing fantasy running backs in 2019. Their 27.8 ppg surrendered to the position ranked as the sixth-most by any team. Not only did they allow the eighth-most rushing yards last season, but running backs also saw an absurd 161 total targets against them, most in the NFL.
Should You Start or Sit David Johnson in Week 1?
The Texans not only traded arguably the best receiver in the game in return for Johnson’s services, but they also cut bait with just their second 1,000-yard rusher since 2015.
Johnson may not pound the rock 30-plus times down the throat of the Chiefs’ defense, but his overall touch count should fall somewhere between 16 and 20-plus touches. Likely volume and a welcoming matchup make Johnson a rock-solid RB2 with low-end RB1 upside.
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