David Johnson Fantasy Value Boosted By Increased Usage in Passing Game in Week 1

Max Staley
Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals
Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals / Christian Petersen/Getty Images
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In 2016, David Johnson had one of the most prolific fantasy seasons in recent memory. He racked up 2,118 yards from scrimmage, adding 20 total touchdowns, and grabbed 80 receptions on 120 targets.

However, a wrist injury ended his 2017 season midway through the first game, and he was largely disappointing in 2018. A big reason for that was his usage in the passing game, or lack thereof, as he saw just 76 targets last season.

Entering this season, there was a lot of optimism that new Arizona Cardinals' head coach Kliff Kingsbury would use Johnson more as a pass-catcher. If Week 1 is any indication of the season to come, fantasy owners could be looking at another monster campaign from the Cardinals' running back in 2019.

Johnson's usage as a receiver is not only an improvement from 2018, it's even an improvement from 2016 too. Of course, one game is an extremely small sample size, but it's encouraging nonetheless.

Johnson ran 41 routes in Week 1, which is 18.5 more routes than he ran on a per-game basis in 2016. He also saw seven targets in Week 1, which is 2.6 more than he saw on a per-game basis last season. But, perhaps, the most encouraging sign isn't just an increase in targets – it's where he's seeing those targets.

His average depth of target in 2018 was 0.6 yards, which means he was generally catching passes at or around the line of scrimmage. But in Week 1, that jumped to 6.1 yards, so he's once again being used as a downfield threat, not just a check down option.

Johnson instantly capitalized on that opportunity, catching a 29-yard touchdown that went 27 yards in the air.

If this trend continues throughout the season, Johnson could have a real shot at finishing as the top player in fantasy. However, there's also chance he has a down game in Week 2 though, as he's only the No. 9 RB in The Duel's Week 2 PPR rankings due to a tough matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. If your league mate gets cold feet, you'd be wise to make some offers for Johnson.


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Max Staley is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Max Staley also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mstaley1212. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.

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