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Rookie Player Profile: Duke Johnson

SWOT

Strengths

Standing 5’9” and weighing in at 207 lbs, Johnson has tremendous burst at the snap of the football. Reaching top speed in just a few steps, he attacks the line of scrimmage before most defenders have at a chance to react to the play – this is not only a testament to his athleticism but also an indicator of his ability to diagnose the line of scrimmage quickly and decisively. As a runner, Johnson displays very good balance which allows him to keep his footing against indirect tackles and extend plays. In addition, Johnson has good lateral agility which, when combined with the traits above, make him a player that’s tough to corral. Johnson is also very unique in his ability to consistently fall forward despite his size. Johnson is excellent at the moment of impact in veering away from tackles for positive yardage.

As a receiver out of the backfield, Johnson will be an asset to the Browns. Johnson has good hands and shows an ability to adjust well to the football when it’s in the air. When you combine all of Johnson’s traits together you have a running back that offers scheme versatility. However, I feel Johnson is best suited  to a zone based scheme.

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 Weaknesses

Johnson is not a powerful back by any measure. While he is certainly more than willing to make first contact with a defender; that is not where he wins. As a result short yardage and goal line situations are not going to be his stock and trade in the NFL. As a blocker in pass protection Johnson has plenty room for improvement as well. It will be difficult for him to carve out a role if he doesn’t at least develop as a competent blocker.

Opportunities

At first glance, the Cleveland Browns have quite the crowed backfield. Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West, both of whom were rookies last season, should enter training camp as the top two running backs on the depth chart. While Crowell certainly flashed potential as a three down back he finish the season marked for stardom. Johnson’s presence on the roster is more of an immediate threat to West than Crowell.  Johnson  is atleast as good of a receiver as West and he is more effective as a runner between the tackles. Last season, Cleveland appeared to be open to a committee approach to position and Johnson’s selection appears to indicate that that might be the case this season as well. Johnson could very well carve out a nice role in the offense early; especially if the offense is playing catch-up in game and a premium is placed on versatility.

Threats

Cleveland’s passing game is going to be a big question mark this upcoming season. If the offense can’t move the ball through the air expect extra men in the box. This could mean an “all hands on deck” scenario where Cleveland rotates all of their backs into the game. In fantasy football players on a team with a crowded backfield could result in constant indecision throughout the year as you set your weekly rosters.

Expectations

This season Johnson could settle in as  a RB3 to RB5 in PPR formats. Crowell and West are two obstacles that won’t be easily overtaken. In addition the volatility of the Cleveland passing game could prove to be a positive or a negative as I described earlier; we will need to wait and see as the season unfolds.

In the long run Johnson should settle in as a low end RB2 or high end RB3 in PPR formats. When you combine Johnson’s versatility as a pass catcher and runner between the tackles it’scould to envision a committee where both Crowell and Johnson are productive. This vision could become a reality as early as this year but I am weary given the current composition of Cleveland’s roster.

NFL Comparison: Giovani Bernard-Lite

Projected Range for Draft

With a current ADP rookie ranking of 13th overall, Duke Johnson seems to garner a late first or early second round pick. As we get closer to the start of the season that figure could move either way as the depth chart crystallizes. The preseason should prove very telling. All things considered I have no hesitation taking him at that price. Duke Johnson has the potential to be a solid (not elite) building block for your fantasy for years to come.

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Kiko
7 years ago

Duke is second best rookie rb behind Gurley. Will be starting by mid season.

Brian Kolm
Reply to  Kiko
7 years ago

I think he is #1. Gurley may never be what he was, just look at Lattimore who had a Scouts inc grade of 98 prior to injury. Gurley was in the low 90s. I just look at prior Miami backs that have come out one after the other: Edge- Portis- Mcgahee- Gore- Lamar Miller- now Duke. None were busts and Lamar was not ranked as high as the first 4 but broke out last year and people draft Ajayi a 5th rounder out of Boise St who is no where NEAR what Doug Martin was in Boise St, I don’t see ANY competition with Lamar with a legit passing offense now. Both PPR bonus players but Duke can run between the tackles. He is a Portis-clone. Crowell is an off the field mess, and West is just not good.

Jason
Reply to  Brian Kolm
7 years ago

Can you explain the off the field mess issue about Crowell? Crowell has worked past those issues, and actually turned in a lot of good runs this year. I’d be surprised if Johnson does as well as Crowell did behind that bad line last year.

Fenwick
7 years ago

I like Duke too. Where would you draft him in a dynasty startup? Would you take him before guys like Yeldon , Coleman etc that have a clearer path to touches ?

christophe brulefert
7 years ago

Clearly no I would draft him in first round I cannot forget the guy cannot stay healthy. For me there is too hype around him

Alden
7 years ago

I have Duke as the 9th rookie RB on my rankings, he is worth drafting but at what point in the draft.

buckmasters
7 years ago

i have the 1.09. i’m hoping for abdullah, or coleman. if they are gone, i’d go duke before the others.

Michael McCann
7 years ago

I pick at 1.12 and I think I’d pass on this kid if he slipped.

Coinflip aka Carla
7 years ago

The most difficult for me to wrap my mind around is that he plays for the Browns…….almost anywhere else would boost his value, but when the ole’ T-Rich we all used to love and know rocked it that year in Cle we all wanted to own him. Maybe I am putting too much on the fact he is a Brown. It is crowded in that backfield but gosh he seems like a RB ready to produce at the same time.

I am torn on this player.

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