Thursday Night Football Fantasy Takeaways: D’Ernest Johnson’s fantasy heroics

If you started D'Ernest Johnson, you're smiling right now. Or if your day isn't going well, at least take comfort that you started Johnson.

Four days after the Las Vegas Raiders dismantled an upper-tier Denver Broncos’ defense, the Cleveland Browns’ backup QB and third-string RB did it again. Not as convincingly, but certainly more shockingly. As fantasy managers, how do we process what happened on Thursday Night Football? And how should we adjust player values going forward? Here are the Thursday night fantasy football takeaways from Week 7.

Thursday Night Football Takeaways: D’Ernest Johnson dominates from the outset

Credit all of you who started D’Ernest Johnson last night. Candidly, I wrongly warned readers that he was too risky, anticipating that Case Keenum would have trouble moving the chains against the Broncos’ top-five pass defense.

This was, after all, the 35-year-old’s first NFL start in nearly two years. Denver’s similarly stout run defense held Saquon Barkley, James Robinson, and other capable backs largely in check. Surely they could do the same against Johnson.

But Cleveland’s opening drive set the tone, and I ate crow (and perhaps other unsavory creatures) as Johnson racked up 9.4 fantasy points in the game’s first three minutes. Nearly every other prediction on that side of the ball played out as expected. Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. were nothing more than desperation dart throws, as I warned earlier Thursday. The same was true for Demetric Felton and the newly-signed John Kelly.

Additionally, Donovan Peoples-Jones injured his groin during pre-game warmups. If he’s unable to suit up next week against Pittsburgh, Landry and Beckham (if healthy) will get small bumps, though not enough to merit automatic fantasy starts.

Returning to the backfield, if Nick Chubb can’t play Week 8, Johnson has to be viewed as a must-start, especially given that Kareem Hunt is already expected to miss multiple games. I realize that sounds like jumping on the bandwagon. Hey, I get it. But it’s hard to ignore what we all just saw.

Broncos’ passing attack held in check

Meanwhile, the Broncos have lost four straight games after starting 3-0. During this winless streak, they’ve been outscored 101-57, while Teddy Bridgewater has thrown 7 TDs and 5 interceptions.

Jerry Jeudy could return in Week 8. Given the inconsistency of Denver’s passing attack, it’s fair to wonder if this offense can consistently feed Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and Noah Fant, particularly if Tim Patrick remains involved as a fringe asset. Are Sutton’s days as a WR2 coming to an end?

As for Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon, Cleveland’s defense stymied them on the ground as anticipated. But I did not foresee they’d both score through the air, as Gordon earned RB3 production, while Williams pushed for RB2.

Congratulations to those who took what I thought was a big risk to start a split backfield on the road against a tough defense. I still believe Williams will outperform Gordon this season. Older RBs sharing backfields with highly talented rookie RBs face an uphill climb, especially if the postseason is out of reach.

BJ Rudell is the Fantasy Football Director for Pro Football Network. You can read all of BJ’s work here, listen to him on PFN’s Fantasy Football podcast, and check out his contributions in PFN’s free fantasy newsletter. Give him a follow on Twitter: @BJRudell.