In a move many Arizona Cardinals fans and fantasy football players have been anticipating since the end of last season, running back David Johnson has been traded. He'll move from Arizona to the Houston Texans in a mega deal that also includes star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, with Houston reportedly assuming all of his remaining salary.
How does Johnson joining the Texans affect his fantasy value in 2020? Let's take a closer look.
There may be no player (aside from Antonio Brown) who's fallen further from grace in the last couple seasons than Johnson. The former Northern Iowa back was the No. 1 PPR running back in 2016, No. 12 in 2017, and No. 9 in 2018. He played in 13 games in 2019 and didn't even rank in the top 30. He even made my end-of-season fantasy busts list.
Injuries and lack of consistency and usage plagued his season. A trade seemed inevitable, as Arizona found lightning in a bottle after trading for Kenyan Drake in the middle of last season. While a deal still needs to be agreed upon between those sides, all signs point to Drake and Chase Edmonds opening the 2020 season as the Cardinals' top backs.
As for Houston, they've been in the market for a running back ever since Lamar Miller went down with an ACL injury last preseason. They added Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde to their backfield via trade last season, and Hyde performed well for them and even fantasy owners at times. However, those were never long-term solutions. Miller and Hyde are free agents, so the immediate need for an impact back facilitated this deal.
Johnson's fantasy value for 2020 is not only tied to how he fits in with his new team, but how he's feeling physically. There were reports out of Cardinals camp last year that Johnson wasn't always finishing his runs the way he used to. He also battled an ankle injury in the middle of the season that ultimately cost him his starting job.
On the other hand, we know Johnson's ceiling is very high. He can be the No. 1 overall running back. It's been a while since he's been in an offense the caliber of what the Texans have right now, even with Hopkins no longer in the fold. Johnson's pass-catching ability—either out wide or out of the backfield—will be a huge asset for quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Johnson's early ADP will be fascinating to watch. Do players immediately buy back in to a former bonafide RB1, or will the sting of last season linger? I'd have Johnson in the RB2 range right now, but a strong preseason could push him up even higher, even though his days of being taken in the first round are likely over. Everyone involved (aside from Cardinals fans) would be more thrilled with this move if Hopkins was still in Houston, but a change of scenery was always the best-case scenario for Johnson, and his best chance to be an RB1 again.
We asked one of the top players in the world the projected draft range for the players involved in this trade:
DeAndre Hopkins: 2nd
Will Fuller: 5th-6th
David Johnson: 4th
Kenyan Drake: 2nd
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