We play a fickle game in fantasy football. One year’s stud running back is the next year’s washed up dud. We’ve all seen it before, and we’re seeing it now with Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson. He’s been battling injuries all year, but it’s clear that he’s not the same player he once was. He’s slower, he’s running a little scared, and he’s flat out not producing.
So what do we do with David Johnson in fantasy football?
There are three main options here: keep him, drop him, or trade him. Let’s look at all three and see where things stand.
David Johnson was likely the first or second running back on your fantasy football team when you drafted him in August. This probably feels like forever ago, and that’s because it is. Looking at draft capital is a bad idea past Week 3, so that’s not a valid argument to hold him, but it just shows where his value used to be and how far he’s fallen since then.
However, through Week 10 he’s 16th in PPR scoring at his position with 5 total touchdowns over eight games played. That’s not terrible. He’s also been getting some good work out of the backfield, catching 31 of 42 targets, so he’s not just getting points from getting to the endzone. However, most of these points came in an entirely different situation than the one he faces now, with both Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds fighting for touches, and Johnson’s injury limiting him on the field.
If you keep him, will you ever use him again? Hard to say as of today, but running backs tend to be hard to find as the season drags on, so keeping him isn’t the worst idea if you have the space on your bench and can afford the stash. It’s unlikely that he’ll see the starting lineup after the byes are over, but who knows? Maybe Drake gets hurt and Johnson gets back to his stud ways, right? Stranger things have happened.
Fantasy football players tend to look for consistency down the stretch so that they don’t get blown out in the first round of the playoffs, and Johnson has been far from consistent. He’s played in eight games this season and has scored 18 points or more in PPR leagues in 5 of them, all of which were in the first six weeks of the year before he was injured and before the team added Drake. In the other three games, he scored 8.4, 0.2, and 0 PPR points, respectively. This is literally the definition of boom or bust, and in the playoffs, you can’t have that.
On top of all of that, Johnson isn’t even the leading back on his own team. In terms of yards, Kyler Murray has more, with 351 to Johnson’s 319. In terms of yards per attempt, Edmonds is ahead with 5.1 to Johnson’s 3.7. Even in terms of total touchdowns, both Johnson and Edmonds have 5 for the year so far this year, so Johnson doesn’t even stand out there on his own squad. It’s very likely that he’s not standing out on yours, either.
If you drop him, it will only be to pick up someone with more upside or more consistency. At the time this article is published, Johnson is owned in almost every fantasy league out there, meaning most other owners haven’t decided to cut bait just yet, but that shouldn’t influence your decision. If a better option is available on your waivers, such as Jaylen Samuels, Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, or Rashaad Penny, I would recommend making the switch. In deeper leagues, it will be tougher, but I could also see dropping him for other fliers like Alexander Mattison, Brian Hill, or Ronald Jones, all of which have more upside and are producing now as we approach the playoffs.
In most redraft fantasy football leagues, we’re past the trade deadline, so this option is off the table, but in dynasty leagues, you’ve likely still got the option. If you’re a contending team, I could see why trading David Johnson sounds like a bad idea: he could still produce down the stretch, and with the deeper benches of dynasty leagues, you’re definitely not just going to drop him. But for rebuilding teams, Johnson is unlikely to grow in value in the coming years. If you’re out of the playoffs and have Johnson riding your bench, you might as well see what you can get for him, right?
In terms of draft picks, I’d try to get a 2020 1st rounder for him at the very least. According to the DLF Trade Analyzer, he’s worth an early first by itself. That doesn’t mean you can definitely make it happen in your league, but that’s where I’d start. I might settle for a younger player and a second, but that will depend on who the player you’re getting back is and where your roster needs the most help.
In terms of value, it’s possible that his best days are behind him and he’s become a declining asset, so moving him now is likely going to net you more than if you waited a week or two. His name value still carries some weight, and owners who are still facing bye week dilemmas and multiple injuries would be more willing to pay more than most, so target them first and try to get a deal done. Don’t sell low unless you absolutely have to, though. He’s not entirely dead in terms of dynasty value just yet, but by next year he likely will be, so act fast.
In redraft leagues, I’m benching David Johnson to see how it goes this week. In dynasty leagues, I’m moving him if I can, but not selling for a discount just yet.
How about you? Are you making a move or holding steady? Both options have merit and both have risks, making for one hell of a debate.
Hit us up on Twitter @PFNFantasy with what you’re doing with David Johnson in your fantasy football league. Also, continue to visit the Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis like the #PFNOSM data while also visiting our Fantasy Football section for more coverage.
Andrew Hall is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can follow him @AndrewHallFF on Twitter.