The summer time is right here, that means we’re getting nearer to the beginning of fantasy soccer drafts. Success in these drafts will come from touchdown terrific bargains within the center to late rounds, whereas avoiding gamers who may see their numbers decline in comparison with 2021. That latter train isn’t simple, nevertheless, particularly within the case of gamers who’re among the many elite at their place or are coming off breakout seasons within the stat sheets.
Working example. In 2019, Michael Thomas went completely bananas for the Saints, and fantasy followers with practically 375 fantasy factors on a report 149 catches for 1,725 yards and 9 touchdowns. Consequently, he was the consensus No. 1 extensive receiver in fantasy drafts and a surefire first-round choose. The aftermath, although, was not practically nearly as good.
Thomas averaged 12 fantasy factors a recreation, down greater than 11 factors from the earlier season, and missed 9 video games attributable to accidents. It is robust to foretell a long-term ailment, in fact, however Thomas wasn’t practically as productive even when he performed.
The purpose right here is that few people noticed this coming as a result of Thomas was so good in 2019. That leads me to this sequence, aptly named “The Fantasy Case In opposition to…” the place I will do my due diligence in taking a look at gamers who everybody in fantasy land thinks are a certain wager to stay uber-productive after discovering a excessive stage of success in previous seasons.
The sequence highlights big-name gamers—or these coming off monumental statistical years— who may see a shocking decline in fantasy success. Like I at all times say, the one predictable factor in regards to the NFL is that it is usually unpredictable. And as a lot as we love our fantasy heroes out on the gridiron, nobody is ever assured to succeed.
Johnson completed eighth in fantasy factors amongst extensive receivers in 2021, scoring simply 11.1 fewer factors than Payments fantasy stud Stefon Diggs. He recorded private bests in targets, receptions, receiving yards and landing catches. D.J. was one of the vital constant extensive receivers in fantasy as nicely, scoring 14-plus fantasy factors 12 completely different instances in 16 video games. That included seven video games the place he scored greater than 17 factors.
Did You Know?
Johnson completed in a tie for fifth in offensive snaps amongst extensive receivers final season, behind solely Cooper Kupp, Justin Jefferson, Terry McLaurin and D.J. Moore. His 10.6 targets per recreation had been tied with Davante Adams for second-most on the place behind solely Kupp, and solely Kupp, Adams and Chris Godwin averaged extra catches per recreation.
One of the dependable wideouts in fantasy leagues, Johnson averaged 17.2 factors per recreation final season. That was the eighth most amongst extensive receivers who performed in not less than 14 video games. Johnson’s common level per recreation totals had been additionally higher than Stefon Diggs, Mike Evans, Keenan Allen, Jaylen Waddle, Brandin Cooks and CeeDee Lamb.
Johnson’s 274.4 fantasy factors final season had been the Tenth-most scored by a Steelers extensive receiver within the Tremendous Bowl period. Solely three wideouts have scored extra PPR factors in a single season. That record contains celebrity Antonio Brown, one-time Tremendous Bowl MVP Hines Ward and JuJu Smith-Schuster. His 169 targets are the third most by a Steelers receiver since 1966, and his 107 catches are good for the sixth-most.
One factor the entire above receivers had in widespread was their beginning quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. The truth is, 18 of the highest 20 single-season fantasy performances by Steelers wideouts within the Tremendous Bowl period got here with Large Ben. The 2 lone exceptions had been each from Yancy Thigpen, who had Neil O’Donnell underneath middle throughout the 1995 season and Kordell Stewart, who was on the helm of the Steelers move assault in 1997.
Scroll to Proceed
Teaching & Personnel Modifications
Matt Canada will enter his second 12 months because the Steelers offensive coordinator. Final 12 months underneath his watch, the offense ranked ninth in common performs per recreation, twenty first in factors per recreation and third in move share. The truth is, the one two groups that threw the ball greater than the Steelers had been the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Jets (imagine it or not). Pittsburgh was additionally fourth in move makes an attempt with Large Ben underneath middle.
Roethlisberger has since retired, leaving the Steelers with veteran Mitchell Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett as their prime two quarterback choices. That, in fact, is the largest query mark pertaining to Johnson’s worth this season. The Steelers additionally misplaced Smith-Schuster to the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs in free company and added a pair of rookie receivers in George Pickens and Calvin Austin III. Smith-Schuster’s absence opens up round 5 targets per recreation, not less than based mostly on his 2021 totals.
The most important problem Johnson faces this season is enjoying with out Roethlisberger, who’s the one quarterback he’s recognized in his profession. You can also make all of the jokes you need about his outdated noodle, however he cherished throwing to Johnson. That was apparent, as practically 26% of his whole move makes an attempt had been thrown in his course over the past two years. That was mirrored in the truth that Johnson was ninth in goal share amongst extensive receivers throughout that interval, and solely Adams averaged extra targets per recreation.
Will that concentrate on share stay the identical with Trubisky or Pickett? That’s the $1 million query. My guess can be no, due partially to some vital statistical components.
Roethlisberger averaged 606.5 move makes an attempt in his final two seasons, together with 605 in his lone 12 months with Canada because the offensive coordinator. Solely Tom Brady, Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen averaged extra move makes an attempt per recreation in 2021. Will Canada have sufficient religion in Trubisky to throw the ball that a lot? Additionally remember the fact that Trubisky has by no means thrown the ball greater than 516 instances in a single season and has by no means thrown for greater than 3,138 yards throughout his profession within the huge leagues.
Completely different crew, completely different gamers. I get it. However that is additionally a quarterback who failed to satisfy expectations in Chicago, was benched for Nick Foles and ended up as a backup in Buffalo final season. Heck, his best accomplishment as a professional so far is likely to be incomes the NVP award (Nickelodeon Precious Participant) in a playoff loss to the Saints. I’m joking, however you get it … Trubisky is not any lock to be higher than he was in Chicago, and any long-term faltering may trigger Johnson to be catching (fewer) passes from a rookie.
Questions on Trubisky’s shelf life will have an effect on Johnson’s manufacturing, little question.
Some would argue that Allen Robinson had two top-10 fantasy seasons when Trubisky was in Chicago, however Trubisky began 24 of these 32 video games. Robinson additionally averaged extra catches and receiving yards with Foles on the helm (9 video games) whereas within the Windy Metropolis. The Bears had been additionally devoid of excellent move catchers, as Trubisky had simply Anthony Miller and never a lot else behind Robinson on the crew’s depth chart.
In Pittsburgh, Trubisky may have not solely Johnson within the move assault but additionally Chase Claypool, Pickens and tight finish Pat Freiermuth. Let’s additionally not neglect Najee Harris, who had 74 catches out of the backfield as a rookie. Trubisky virtually had to throw the soccer to Robinson by default whereas in Chicago. He gained’t have that downside with the Steelers, so a goal funnel scenario with Johnson is much less doubtless in comparison with the Bears.
Whereas there are some issues to love about Trubisky, like his air yards per try, move performs of 20-plus yards and landing share in comparison with Roethlisberger’s final two seasons, he’s something however a lock to provide at a excessive stage within the Steelers offense. Heck, Canada may (and I imagine will) name extra operating performs with Harris behind what ought to be an improved offensive line. That may imply fewer passes for Trubisky or Pickett, which equates to fewer alternatives for Johnson to provide within the stat sheets.
Within the month of June, Johnson is the WR15 and holds a mean draft place of 36.4 within the National Fantasy Football Championships. He is not seen as a No. 1 fantasy extensive receiver like he was final 12 months, nor ought to he be with questions surrounding the Steelers quarterback scenario. Except every thing falls into place, I may simply see a situation the place Johnson is nearer to the being WR20 than a possible top-10 possibility in 2022.
Extra fantasy & NFL protection:
- Diontae Johnson 2022 Fantasy Projections
- Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 Fantasy Outlook
- Latest SI Fantasy Mock Draft
- How Will Chiefs Replace Hill’s Vacated Targets?
- Report: NFL Seeks Long Watson Suspension
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports activities Writers Affiliation (FSWA) Corridor of Fame. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You may comply with Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram on your late-breaking fantasy information and the perfect evaluation within the enterprise!