Fantasy Football Stock Watch: Duke Johnson Jr. to take step back in 2018 - Roto Street Journal
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Fantasy Football Stock Watch: Duke Johnson Jr. to take step back in 2018

“I mean I think having a very good runner is important to an offensive football team and to a team in general… I think the running back class is strong, obviously, spearheaded by Barkley, but at the same time, there’s a lot of other really good players in this draft that are running backs.”

– Hue Jackson via NFL Combine 

There’s no denying that last year Duke Johnson was a very serviceable RB in such a tumultuous year for the winless Cleveland Browns. Despite only rushing for 348 yards, his 74 catches for 693 yards and 3 scores made him a PPR monster. Those numbers were on par with pass catchers Mohammed Sanu and site favorite Jack Doyle. It certainly helped that the Browns were down in virtually every game, where the game script would tilt heavily in Johnson’s favor. Isaiah Crowell’s inability to do anything also boosted Johnson’s value, and he should continue to play an integral role going forward.

HOWEVER!

Recently the guys over at The Fantasy Fullback Dive welcomed Cleveland Browns expert Zac Jackson to the pod to talk everything Browns. One of his opening statements resonated pretty well with me and is likely to dampen Johnson’s stock going into 2018.

“There’s no way from a fantasy standpoint he can come close to matching those [2017] numbers.”

When you listen to his rational and points, it makes clear sense that what we saw was a flash in the pan for Duke Johnson. An upgrade at QB is likely coming, and there’s little chance they can be as historically bad as they were last season. A better Cleveland team means less dink and dumps trying to play catch up all game. He will still have a decisive role as the pass catching back, but to expect 2017 like numbers once again is a long lost dream.

We haven’t even addressed the elephant in the room though. NFL Draft and Combine darling Saquon Barkley could very well go No. 1 overall to Cleveland, which would drastically shift the team’s outlook. As Jackson pointed out, Barkley’s presence would be the dominant aspect of the offense and he’s the one who would get all the significant touches. Johnson would come in for some passing downs, but you aren’t taking your #1 overall pick off the field too often.

Even if the Browns don’t draft Barkley at #1 (or #4 assuming he somehow slipped that far), Cleveland is likely to add a talented RB to the roster after all.

Hue Jackson talked about the talented running back draft class at the Combine:

I think it is. I mean I think having a very good runner is important to an offensive football team and to a team in general. You get to kind of dictate the game. There’s been some fine players that have come out the last couple years, and I think that’s what it is. You know this all changes from year to year, so, again, here’s an opportunity. I think the running back class is strong, obviously, spearheaded by Barkley, but at the same time, there’s a lot of other really good players in this draft that are running backs.”

Bottom line here is, we expect Johnson to still have a role with the Browns in 2017. He will still be a viable PPR option you can use in a pinch, but don’t be expecting numbers like last year.

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