Once upon a time, Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson was a fantasy football superstar.
In his rookie season (2015) Johnson scored eight rushing touchdowns (581 yards). He also caught 36 passes for another 457 yards and four more touchdowns.
Johnson then followed that up with a ridiculous sophomore season. He ran for 1,239 yards and scored an incredible 16 touchdowns on the ground. The running back also added 80 receptions for 879 yards and four receiving touchdowns.
Those are video game numbers. Anyone who had him on their fantasy team in 2016 almost definitely made the playoffs.
In 2017, Johnson got hurt in his first game of the year and missed the rest of the season.
Then came 2018. He returned, but wasn’t nearly as effective. The 3.6 yards per carry were the worst he ever posted in a year (not counting 2017, when he had 11 carries).
Still, Johnson ran for 940 yards and seven touchdowns and caught 50 passes for 446 yards and three more touchdowns. Overall, that’s still a really good year; it’s just not up to the standard Johnson had set.
What should you expect from Johnson this year? Will it be more of the same (great but not elite)? Or, will he return to his peak?
With those questions in mind, where should you select Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson in your fantasy football draft?
When drafting a running back, you first have to think about whom you will take ahead of him.
For Johnson, that list is short.
Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey are obvious choices. Things get a little murky after that.
Ezekiel Elliott? His contract situation isn’t great. There’s a very real chance he will sit out at least a few games. Unless this is resolved before your fantasy draft, wait it out a little bit. Believe me, I took Le’Veon Bell last year; that will handicap your team pretty badly.
Todd Gurley? The knee issues are serious enough for the Rams to admit they are going to take it easy with him. They are also serious enough to trade up in the third round to draft running back Darrell Henderson. This could make Johnson a more intriguing option to some fantasy football players.
Speaking of Bell, what about him? He was a fantastic fantasy football running back as early as 2017. However, he sat out all of last season. Do you trust someone to skip an entire year and come back on a brand new team and be his old self? Yes, he’ll likely still be a very good fantasy football option, but putting him over Johnson is a reach.
Melvin Gordon is in the same boat as Elliott; it’s impossible to tell what exactly is going on. He’s probably a safer bet, but it’s still a confusing process.
Alvin Kamara is definitely a name to consider ahead of Johnson. Meanwhile, Joe Mixon and James Conner are in the mix, and Chris Carson is near that group as well.
What you have to remember is that Johnson should be back to a massive workload and has a year of being healthy under his belt. Carson has a lot of other running backs to fend with, and Kamara won’t get the carries Johnson gets.
Mixon was awesome last year but is now under the threat of being the obvious weapon in Cincinnati’s offense. Defenses will start to game plan around him, especially if A.J. Green’s injuries become a problem again.
Conner was great last season but struggled with consistency. Sure, he showed great ability in the passing game, but he also had three sub-30-yard rushing games and fumbled four times. The Pittsburgh Steelers added Benny Snell Jr. in the fourth round of the draft this year, and could want to lower Conner’s workload.
With all that in mind, Johnson has two running backs definitely ahead of him. He has two ahead of him if their situations are cleared up (Gurley and Elliott), but that seems unlikely. After that, it’s a judgment call.
If you believe Gordon won’t have issues this year, that’s up to you. If you believe Kamara will get the carries to rival Johnson and Bell will not miss a step, that’s up to you.
However, if you’re looking for advice: David Johnson will be a star in 2019. He has a passing game with Kyler Murray and a bunch of new receivers. Defenses can’t focus completely on him. Snatch him up near the end of the first round (early second if you’re lucky) and watch him rake in the fantasy points.