In The Blitz, RotoViz writers react to the latest news and help you place it within the context of our 2020 research and recommendations.
One of the more exciting rookie wide receivers from the 2019 class that isn’t A.J. Brown or D.K. Metcalf has been Diontae Johnson of the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the duo from Ole Miss has made waves with sheer physicality, highlight-reel receptions, open field plays, and touchdowns, Johnson continues to soak up an incredible amount of volume thanks to technical abilities that continuously result in him getting space. His Week 16 performance only solidified what we’ve seen all season.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson turned in a solid game in a 28-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 16. Johnson wound up catching eight of 14 targets for 75 yards and a touchdown in the comeback victory. His score came on a 39-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger in the third quarter on a play where he laid out for a diving catch down the right sideline. Johnson continues to be heavily targeted and is locked in as a WR2 in fantasy. He will face the Cleveland Browns in Week 17.
A Promising Rookie Campaign
The Steelers promising 2019 season was derailed once Roethlisberger went down with a season-ending injury. Still, Johnson showed out considering his carousel of inept quarterback play. Our own Jack Miller had this to say when he predicted a Johnson breakout back in February:
Among rookie WRs who played six or more games, Johnson finished:
- Fifth in targets per game and receptions per game
- Eighth in receiving yards per game
- Ninth in fantasy points per game
- Seventh in expected points per game (reEP)
- 11th in per-game efficiency (reFPOE)
A quick glance at Johnson’s 2019 game log shows only six games with double-digit fantasy points, but as Jack points out, there was more than enough reason for optimism if you know where to look and which research to use to back up your point. Blair Andrews highlights the importance of rookie year efficiency, which has a strong correlation to fantasy success. Johnson has genuinely broken out as we wind down the 2020 season and is an ascending dynasty asset.
Volume Is King
Johnson wasn’t the only promising rookie receiver drafted by the Steelers last season. Teammate Chase Claypool has also been making a name for himself this season. The trio of Johnson, Claypool, and JuJu Smith-Schuster have rotated weeks of high-end production, but Johnson has been the focal point for this offense. As mentioned initially, once the targets started coming his way, they never stopped, even when drops started to become an issue. Johnson has 10 different games with at least 10 targets this season.
The yardage hasn’t been there, but the volume is promising. The future of Roethlisberger and Smith-Schuster will have significant implications for Johnson and the rest of the offense. Still, there’s no question that Johnson is an exciting player who is just tapping into his potential.