The Houston Texans backfield has done quite the August shuffle, first releasing D’Onta Foreman and then trading for Duke Johnson. Now, Lamar Miller has suffered an ACL injury and is done for the season — so what is the fantasy impact for Duke Johnson?
Let’s dive right into it using some of the tools at our disposal here at RotoViz, including the Projection Machine.
Can Duke Johnson handle a lead role?
Johnson has never touched the ball more than 165 times in a season,1 and he has only eclipsed 100 rushing attempts in a season once2. This usage over the first four years of his career has caused Johnson to be labeled as a third-down receiving back.
But is this a fair description of Johnson’s full ability?
Not sure why it’s assumed Duke Johnson can’t handle a featured role.
* 210 pounds
* Averaged 18.4 carries over final two NCAA seasons
* HOU gave a 3rd-rd pick for him
* Never missed an NFL game in four seasons
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) August 24, 2019
As it currently stands, Johnson is all but locked in to handle a much bigger role than ever before. Behind him on the depth chart are a bunch of players you have never heard of (although Jordan Hoover has provided analysis).
Buddy Howell, Josh Ferguson, Taiwan Jones, Cullen Gillaspia, Karan Higdon Jr., Damarea Crockett
Assuming Johnson does step into something that looks like Miller’s role — combined with the third-down role he was already projected for — what can we expect of him in 2019?
Here’s what happens if Johnson picks up Miller’s entire expected receiving role and most of Miller’s rushing work. Johnson’s team market share of rushing attempts moves to 50% and his receiving market share jumps to 13%.
A top-15 fantasy season is now within Johnson’s reach
This projection would have Johnson rushing 238 times for nearly 1,000 yards while adding another 50 catches and 400 yards through the air.
Such a line would put Johnson at RB15 on the year — firmly in play as a solid fantasy RB2.
Fantasy impact of Lamar Miller injury: The Texans will likely look for another RB
While I do like Johnson as the lead back, the reason I projected him for “only” 50% of the team’s rushing attempts is because it’s highly likely the team adds a running back soon. Need I remind you of their depth chart shown above?
Here are some possibilities:
- They could wait to acquire cut players as roster drop down days approach.
- Kenneth Dixon has been floated as a cut candidate in Baltimore
- They could trade for an RB
- The Eagles are stacked at RB
- So are the Patriots
- Some guy named Melvin Gordon isn’t too happy in Los Angeles
For now, Duke Johnson is one of the best RB3s you can draft
If a major player is added to the Texans roster, the above Johnson projection will obviously need to be altered. But the “only” 50% rush market share could easily turn to 55% or 60% if the Texans don’t add a major threat. In other words, the RB2 projection above is entirely realistic and could grow.
On the flip side, his rushing market share could also slip to something like 25% or 30% if they do add a bigger threat. But even that, coupled with Johnson’s set-in-stone receiving work, would be enough to make him a solid flex option.
My point: A lot can change between now and Week 1, but as it stands, Johnson is one of the best values you can take as your RB3. He has very legitimate RB2 potential, and his floor, barring something wild like a Gordon trade, is still in the flex range.