Fantasy Football: Why Browns RB Duke Johnson Is The Next Giovani Bernard
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When the Browns drafted Duke Johnson at 77th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, a lot of fantasy football players like me groaned. I was one of the many players who got stuck last season owning the three-headed monster of Ben Tate, Isaiah Crowell, and Terrence West last season.
It’s been a couple of months for me to let it all sink in and with OTAs under way, the Browns camp has nothing but bright eyes and positive things to say about Johnson.
“He gives you another dimension. He creates one-on-one problems. We hope he can be a little bit like the kid, Bernard, in Cincinnati. If he can do that for us, that gives us a different perspective on how we approach the field and gives us a chance to move people around and taking advantage of a mismatch.”
That was a quote from Browns running back coach Wilbert Montgomery in an interview he gave to Ohio.com in early June.
He’s drawing a lot of comparisons to Giovani Bernard, and for good reason.
Duke Johnson: 5’9, 207 lbs.
40 yard dash time: 4.50
Vertical Jump: 35 inches
Short Shuttle: 4.16 seconds
Bench Press: 18 reps at 225 lbs.
Giovani Bernard: 5’8, 202 lbs.
40 yard dash: 4.53
Vertical Jump: 33.5 inches
Short Shuttle: 4.12 seconds
Bench Press: 19 reps at 225 lbs.
While researching Duke Johnson, I also felt like he drew pretty close comparisons to a first round pick from the 2006 NFL Draft by the name of Deangelo Williams.
DeAngelo Williams: 5’9, 214 lbs
40 yard dash: 4.48
Vertical Jump: 34.5 inches
Short Shuttle: 4.10 seconds
Bench Press: 25 reps at 225 lbs.
The comparisons aren’t over yet. Let’s take a quick comparison of DeAngelo Williams and Giovani Bernard’s rookie seasons.
DeAngelo Williams (2006): 121 att. for 501 yards (4.1 yards/att.), 33 catches for 313 yards (9.3 yards/catch), 2 touchdowns
Giovani Bernard (2013): 170 att. for 695 yards (4.1 yards/att.), 56 catches for 514 yards (9.2 yards/catch), 8 touchdowns
*It should be noted, Williams missed three games due to an injury his rookie season
The Browns ran roughly 45% of the time last season. They had a total of 425 carries between West-Crowell-Tate with West leading the trio with 171 carries, roughly 40% of the carries.
Crowell’s stats were clearly better at 4.1 yards a carry and 8 touchdowns, but fumbles became a major problem during the season, fumbling the ball three times in 2014.
West finished the season with 673 yards on 171 carries and 4 touchdowns. He also had 11 catches for 64 yards, only 5.8 yards a catch. West lost his spot as the starting running back that was awarded to him.
So the question is, where does that leave Johnson? As much as I wish Johnson was an every down back, it’s not going to happen. Isaiah Crowell is a bigger back and happens to be a great pass blocker in protection.
Crowell will easily get over 50% of the snaps. I feel like Duke Johnson will get around 32% of the team’s carries.
We’ll say that the number is 400 carries for the Browns in 2015. Using CBS and ESPN’S projected pass attempt numbers for the Browns puts us at a 43 and a 46 run to pass ratio (last season it was 45%, so the projected number is close)
32% would give Duke Johnson 128 carries next season and 525 yards at 4.1 yards per carry. Add about 30 catches and 276 yards (9.2 yards per catch) and four touchdowns.
That’s 104.1 fantasy points in a standard fantasy league and 119.1 fantasy points in a PPR league. Those projections would put Johnson in the top 30 in ESPN projections.
I don’t think Johnson will be capable of reaching the three catch per game numbers Bernard did in his rookie year, I don’t think he’ll be able to match the 8 touchdowns either, however if he were to match Bernard’s (and his teammate Crowell’s from last season) 8 touchdowns, it would boost him into the top 20 for fantasy RBs.
“I can make things happen”, Johnson said after being drafted by the Browns. He’s going to get the touches, and he certainly will make things happen in fantasy football in 2015.