You have heard that Andre Johnson is unhappy in Houston, and as expected, he skipped OTAs and mandatory minicamp. You have also heard that Ryan Fitzpatrick has recently been named the Texans starting quarterback. These two facts led to one of the saddest headlines of all time. None of that means anything–now is the time to invest in Johnson.
Johnson’s Value In Houston
Look, it’s not because of Fitzpatrick. I am pretty good at playing devil’s advocate, but I’m not the actual devil. I can’t polish that turd.
While discussing Torrey Smith’s prospects, I pointed out that Johnson has never finished worse than WR11 in PPR when playing a full season, something he’s accomplished the last two seasons. Using the new WR ADP Arbitrage App, we can see that Johnson is being drafted as WR18. Gary Kubiak left town so there’s a good chance Johnson won’t get as many targets as he has historically (he had 181 targets in 2013). Randy Moss did have 159 targets in 2007 when Bill O’Brien was an offensive assistant in New England however, so we should not expect a huge drop off. That number decreased substantially in 2008 (123 targets) when O’Brien began calling plays, but I suspect that had more to do with Matt Cassel being QB than O’Brien’s offensive scheme. Wes Welker also had 144 targets in 2008. There is always the chance DeAndre Hopkins’ role substantially increases, but it is hard to envision a scenario where he gets more targets than Johnson. Johnson could easily outperform his WR18 ADP, even with a decrease in targets.
But doesn’t the app say his comparables are drafted later on average? Yes, but that does not mean you should avoid him. Pierre Garcon and Vincent Jackson are actually drafted earlier than he is, so he represents a better value pick. Marques Colston may be done. Anquan Boldin is a better value, but he’s going so much later that you could easily draft both.
If Johnson Leaves Houston
Of course, all that is assuming Johnson stays in Houston, which does not seem like a guarantee at this point. There are two teams that jump out to me as potential trade partners: New England and Cleveland.
New England seems to have more than enough cap space to afford Johnson’s contract. If Johnson gets traded there, his ADP will instantly rise, and for good reason. It is a good win-now move for the Patriots, who may not be super confident in their receivers, and it would boost Tom Brady’s 2014 prospects. Of course, that would be a bad move for the value of other Patriot WRs, including the glorious Aaron Dobson. Until the situation clears up, you may want to stay away from receivers like Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and even Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen in redraft formats. Dobson’s ADP is already so low that it likely would not change his perceived value that much, and he would remain a solid upside play.
Brady is nice and all, but Cleveland actually projects to be a much better situation for Johnson. Kyle Shanahan is the offensive coordinator now, and he runs a variant of Kubiak’s offense. In fact, Johnson’s career peaked when Shanahan was OC in Houston. Shanahan was also able to translate the skills of Santana Moss and Pierre Garcon into WR11 seasons, and they are both lesser talents than Johnson. This move would likely destroy what little value Miles Austin has, dampen Jordan Cameron’s ADP a little, and boost Johnny Manziel’s value.
There is also a chance Johnson retires. This seems unlikely to me given that he has around $35 million left on his current contract. If he’s unhappy, it makes more sense to simply not play for Houston. Houston could save over $3.5 million against the cap by cutting him this year, which is better than paying him for nothing. Remember, when Carson Palmer pulled the same move in Cincinnati Mike Brown swore he would not trade him . . . which just increased what they got for him when they did end up trading him to Oakland.
In dynasty, this is the perfect time to buy low. He only has a few years left on his career, so you probably would not want to trade anybody significantly younger for him. But you could probably trade the aforementioned Vincent Jackson for Johnson and a little extra. Larry Fitzgerald likely has more name value even though he has been less productive than Johnson. You could also try to trade some mid-round picks for him if you think Johnson’s current owner is not high on his prospects. It may not be exciting to have Johnson on your team, but old WRs win dynasty championships.
It is as simple as this: Johnson is likely undervalued right now, and there is a chance both his perceived value and actual value are about to increase significantly. You really can not go wrong acquiring him.1