Duke Johnson asked for a trade away from the Cleveland Browns this offseason — making him the only player that wanted out of suddenly-exciting Cleveland — and he finally got his wish, as the Browns traded him to the Houston Texans for a 2020 draft pick.
The move comes days after Houston cut ties with D’Onta Foreman, who was thought to be locked in to the team’s No. 2 position. Freeman’s release seemed to free things up for Lamar Miller, who suddenly had no competition for touches. This led Shawn Siegele to bump Miller up from 95 to 60 in his overall rankings. Here’s what Shawn had to say about Miller’s outlook post-Foreman:
[T]he 2019 scoring environment promises to be ridiculously good. With Will Fuller ready to set the world on fire in his return from ACL surgery, the Texans should pass more. Extra passing attempts and more total plays would be good news for a back who has scored only 13 TDs on over 700 carries in Houston.
But with Duke Johnson traded to Houston, everything gets shaken once again, not only in Houston, but also in Cleveland. Let’s dive into our brand new NFL Projections Machine to see what this means for all players impacted.
Lamar Miller goes from back-end RB2 to Flex option in PPR leagues
As noted above, Miller’s fantasy stock soared to new heights once Foreman was cut, but the addition of Johnson caps his upside — likely even mores than it was capped with just Foreman as the back up. That’s because Johnson is a proven, legitimate pass-catching threat and is certain to carve out a role in Houston’s offense from the start, which, as Siegele noted above, will be pass-happy.
Miller has accounted for about 8% of Houston’s target market share in recent seasons, but that number should take a hit with the addition of Johnson. I could see it drop as low as 5%.
Miller’s rushing market share, meanwhile, has been about 50-55%. There’s no reason to expect that to change, given that Johnson has always been a change-of-pace back in terms of rushing.
Let’s plug these numbers into RotoViz Projection Machine and see Miller’s 2019 outlook with Johnson on the team:
Here’s a detailed look at his rushes, rushing and target market shares, and PPR points over the last five years compared to his updated 2019 projections:
You can see we don’t expect much change in terms of rushing or rushing market share, but there will be a significant dip in target market share. His PPR totals should be near his 2018 numbers, which were down from previous years.
Overall, this new projection for Miller pushes him to RB28 in PPR leagues, down from his current projections of RB21.
Duke Johnson remains as a fringe flex option
So the move is a slight downgrade for Miller — but how does it impact Johnson?
Duke Johnson has commanded roughly 10% team target market share each of the last four seasons in Cleveland. There are a number of mouths to feed in Houston — namely DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Keke Coutee. A 10% target market share on this offense seems reasonable for Johnson. But it’s hard to find more.
His rushing market share in Cleveland dipped last year (to 10%), but he was closer to 15% each of the two previous seasons. However, in Houston, given that Miller hasn’t seen much more than 50% in recent years and Deshaun Watson will account for about 20%, Johnson’s rushing attempt market share could easily rise to 20%.
Let’s plug these numbers into the NFL Projections Machine and see what happens to Johnson’s 2019 outlook1:
His current projections in Cleveland: 65 attempts, 292 yards, 2 rushing TDs, 40 receptions, 372 receiving yards, and 2 receiving TDs.
Overall, the numbers are not drastically different, but it’s enough to bump him from RB44 to RB39 in the projections. He remains on the flex radar.
What happens in Cleveland?
Nick Chubb gets a boost in receiving work, but not much change in the rushing department. He remains a tail-end RB1/high-end RB2. Dontrell Hilliard also gets a nice boost with Johnson out, and is especially intriguing for the first half of the year while Kareem Hunt is suspended. Hilliard is a deep sleeper who we’ve already projected to step up in the event Johnson was shipped out of Cleveland.
Meanwhile, the path is now clear for Hunt to form a tandem with Chubb once he returns from suspension. Hunt is a phenomenal pass-catching back and will likely assume the primary out-of-the-backfield duties once back on the field, though if Hilliard has been able to establish himself in the meantime, he may return with uncertain job security. Hunt’s value should see a slight increase as we don’t really know what to expect from Hilliard, but he should still be approached with caution, as his prolonged absence will no doubt place him at a disadvantage.
Image Credit: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Duke Johnson.
- We’ll keep his projected RuTD% (3.1%) and RecTD% (5.0%) figures the same as they are in the current projections. (back)