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This First Round Running Back’s Profile is Terrifying

David Johnson terrifies me. Worse than Brexit or the Babadook. Worse than Carrot Top in a clown suit. Johnson embodies all that is sullied and unholy about player projections, and I would rather smash my junk in a waffle iron than draft him at his current overall ADP.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 10.10.23 AM

Johnson’s ADP is ninth overall, and he’s the third RB off the board. Here’s why I’m terrified.

Zero RB is still a thing

Fantasy Douche recently derived equity scores for fantasy relevant players. A quick chart of RB equity1 shows value is still elusive at the RB position. RBs are just a bad value in general, and despite its growing popularity Zero RB remains the strategically superior way to build a roster.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 11.17.10 AM

While value may not be everything, taking any running back at an an ADP of ninth overall is very likely wrong.

David Johnson’s comps are a disaster

Johnson’s comps do not look like those of a future RB3. In fact, his comp list is littered with names that headlined failed fantasy drafts from previous seasons.

Toby Gerhart, Montee Ball, C.J. Anderson, C.J. Spiller and Knile Davis all feature prominently in his projection in the RotoViz Similarity Scores App. It’s a regular murderer’s row. Jason Snelling, Mike Goodson, and Jamel White? Names like these are why Johnson’s composite projection is less than 12 games played.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 11.49.30 AM

Moreover, if you look deeper it’s actually even worse. As good as the RB Sim App is, it does leave out one important piece of information. When it computes the N+1 comps for a player, it throws out lost seasons where no stats were generated. If you account for those lost seasons to create a “bust rate” stat, Johnson has the highest bust rate2 of any player being drafted in the top 30 not named Jamaal Charles.3

Finally, to give a little perspective to just how enthusiastic Johnson’s valuation is: his comp with the most N+1 PPR points is Deangelo Williams, who was drafted as a RB34 in 2008.

Johnson’s athleticism is being oversold

Kevin Cole has shown that athleticism does matter for RBs4 and Johnson’s mix of burst, agility and speed is intoxicating to look at. This, along with Johnson’s late season heroics in 2015 appears to be what is driving his current valuation.

David Johnson spider graph

But is it justified? Athleticism is no guarantee of NFL success; just ask Toby Gerhart. Or C.J. Spiller. Or Knile Davis.

Speaking of Gerhart, according to Player Profiler Gerhart is not just one of  Johnson’s top comps in terms of 2015 production, he’s also his top objective athletic comp.

Honestly, having Gerhart’s name keep reappearing in Johnson’s profile is downright frightening.

Remember June 2014? #neverforget

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 12.06.50 PM

Johnson’s Opportunity is in question

In the end, for me, opportunity is all that matters. If a player can get volume I want him on my team. At an ADP of nine you would assume that Johnson’s role on the team would be completely unquestioned.

Except it isn’t.

April 2 – “David’s earned the right now to be the bell cow. Everybody’s got to take it from him. But Chris ran for 800 (yards) and probably would have had 1,200 had he stayed healthy. Andre can break the game open. It’s my job to get them the ball enough because they can all do different things.”Head Coach Bruce Arians

June 7 – “We’ve been doing this for three years with Andre and whoever, to have a two-back package. And we’ve never been able to get both of them to the field healthy, but we’re going to continue with the package because they all bring such dynamic passing game stuff, and obviously they can run.” – HC Bruce Arians

June 9 – Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 1.31.41 PM– Twitter

Johnson has just three games of 90 yards rushing or more.5 He has just two games of 60 yards receiving or more.

In the final two weeks of the season after his breakout game of 187 yards rushing and three TDs, Johnson rushed for 25 and 39 yards on just nine and ten carries. During that two game stretch he caught less than half of his 14 passing targets. This wasn’t an aberration. Johnson has a game on his resume where he received ten targets and caught only four.6 He did not finish the 2015 season as anyone’s definition of a bell cow.


Projecting young RBs is always fraught, even when they have well over 125 career carries. With a sample size as small as Johnson’s you really have no idea what to expect in 2016. Johnson’s range of outcomes is enormous, and his comps are atrocious. If you’re going to draft an RB early, you absolutely must choose the safest player possible.

This is not that player. David Johnson is the very definition of unsafe.

  1. Equity is defined as the difference between the Expected Points of overall ADP and the EP of positional ADP. See the article for a full explanation. The basic idea is to gauge if players are being taken too early or late.  (back)
  2. Eight percent.  (back)
  3. 12 percent.  (back)
  4. Specifically 40-yard dash time.  (back)
  5. One of those games was for 187 yards it must be noted.  (back)
  6. Week 4 against St. Louis.   (back)

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