Welcome back to another season of fantasy football. The drafts are done and the new year awaits, full of hopes and dreams and fully intact ACLs. While the first week of the NFL season is always one of the most exciting times in the fall, it can be a little tricky for first-time fantasy players and veterans alike.
Predicting usage throughout the season is a difficult task; predicting Week 1 touches and targets is a whole different beast. Coachspeak and limited preseason action are not the sturdiest pillars to make decisions off of, but at this point in the year there is not a ton else out there.
Despite all of this, the Defenses & Dragons Detroit Lions Player of the Week is rookie Kerryon Johnson. Though no one knows how much action he is going to see in his first NFL game or how he will do in his first real game action, the Lions’ second-rounder has all of the tools to be a fantasy weapon.
FantasyPros Ranking: RB33 (0.5 PPR)
FanDuel Pricing: N/A (Monday Night)
Obviously there are not really any real numbers to look back to for Johnson. He carried the ball 15 times for 68 yards and added five catches for 43 yards during three preseason games. While LeGarrette Blount received 27 carries and almost tripled Johnson’s workload in Week 3 of the preseason, it could mean that the rookie already had the job wrapped up.
The Jets gave up the ninth-most fantasy points per game to running backs last season, allowing 22.3 points in 0.5 PPR scoring. Pro Football Focus believes the run defense will perform much better this season, which actually may advocate for using a versatile back like Johnson as opposed to a traditional runner like Blount.
Many of the running backs to find success against New York last season were players in the passing game. Mark Ingram (29.6 points), Dion Lewis (28.3), LeSean McCoy (18.4), and Alvin Kamara (17.9) all posted big games while tallying at least five receptions. Johnson might not quite hit this mark, but he is capable in both the running and receiving dimensions, something that cannot be said of Blount or Theo Riddick, his main competition.
While consensus rankings put Johnson as a Flex in 12-team leagues, rankers listed him anywhere from RB16 to RB52. This wide range is surely a sign of the uncertainty in his playing time, not his talent and ability. With a team that has looked so awful in the preseason, expect head coach Matt Patricia to play the best players he has from the get-go.
Afraid of starting a rookie in Week 1? If last year is any indication, early draft picks do just fine from the start. The four running backs drafted in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft — Leonard Fournette (19.9 points), Christian McCaffrey (11.0), Dalvin Cook (15.2), and Joe Mixon (3.9) — averaged 12.3 points in their debuts.
Charge into the unknown and start Johnson against the Jets. He may not produce a top-10 week, but double-digit fantasy points are definitely within his range of outcomes. Consider Johnson a lower-end RB2 with some big play potential on Monday night.
Prediction: 13 carries, 65 yards; 3 catches, 40 yards; 12.0 fantasy points