2021 Fantasy Football Absurdity Check: Is it Duke Johnson’s Time?

Well, Duke Johnson Truthers fired him up off of their benches, pulling him up from between Josh Gordon and Andrew Luck at the bottom of their dynasty rosters. And, he pulled it off for them! He ended the game with 22 rush attempts and one reception, totaling 23 touches, for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He was, undoubtedly, the story of week fifteen, and Miami signed him to the active roster (off of the practice squad) for the rest of the season, but can we trust it going forward? Or was this a blip on the radar?

First, let’s look at the situation surrounding Duke Johnson. There was no Jaylen Waddle (COVID-19), and every other running back on the roster either sat on IR or the COVID shelf (Malcolm Brown, Philip Lindsay & Salvon Ahmed) or were fresh off a bout of COVID-19 (Myles Gaskin). According to NBC Sports Edge, the CBS broadcast reported that Gaskin was on a snap count due to his COVID bout. So, that is to say, the door was wide open for Duke Johnson to do whatever it was he wanted with the Dolphins’ backfield.

Well, he didn’t just perform… he kicked the door down. Duke Johnson had his career game, as his previous career highs in yardage were 116, coming in 2015 and 2016. That’s right when Barack Obama was still president. So, do I trust this output? I mean, not really. And why’s that? Say it with me folks: because he was playing the New York Jets.

The New York Jets put “getting smoked by opposing running backs” and take it to the next level. In half-PPR leagues, they allow 30.5 fantasy points per game to the position, 4.1 points per game above the #2 team (the Seahawks). The difference between the Jets and Seahawks is the same as the Seahawks and the Giants, who are ninth. According to FF Today’s fantasy points against tool, they are the worst team since the 2008 Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions, making them the only teams since 2008 to top 30 fantasy points allowed to running backs on the year. That’s quite the peer group, considering the Lions went 0-16 that season and the Broncos tipped over 30 fantasy points per game by allowing 66.4 fantasy points in week seventeen (six running back touchdowns!).

So, Duke Johnson got a ton of touches against a bad defense and took advantage of the situation. What should we expect from the Dolphins going forward? Well, the same thing that we’ve expected from Miami all season long: chaos. Myles Gaskin still looms large, and while intentionally limiting his snaps, he still played 37% of snaps (to Johnson’s 58%). So, I would have to imagine that as Gaskin gains health and conditioning, that gets closer to a 50-50 split. There’s also the Philip Lindsay, Salvon Ahmed, and Jaylen Waddle returns to contend with.

But, you don’t get fantasy points from snap share, you get them from touches. And… Well, things don’t look great there for Duke Johnson, either. The Dolphins are bottom-ten in running back touches per game, with just 25.3 touches per game to the position. Now assume he gets 60% of that, that’s 15 touches per game. That’s his realistic touch ceiling going forward, considering the game plan change without Waddle around. Waddle’s return also portends a bad future for Duke Johnson; the Dolphins pass the ball to running backs 16.4% of the time, the seventh-lowest figure in the league. Johnson gashed the Jets, but he is not a between-the-tackles banger, he is a pass catcher. And there aren’t any passes to catch this season, with just six targets per game to running backs getting split between the players.

So, do I trust Duke Johnson? No. Does this mean that I trust Myles Gaskin going forward? Also no. The Dolphins failed to establish Gaskin to start the year, and now that they’ve finally done it… Duke Johnson rears his ugly head. But this has more to do with all the running backs kicking around this roster. With Malcolm Brown and Philip Lindsay returning to siphon carries, and Duke Johnson now on the roster to siphon targets, I have trouble trusting Myles Gaskin going forward. Luckily, “going forward” is just two games, against the Saints and the Titans.

I don’t see how you can trust a start from either Gaskin or DJJ in week sixteen. The Saints allow just 15.5 half-PPR points per game over the last five weeks, which ranks in the bottom ten. The reason? They don’t allow touchdowns, having yielded just three running back touchdowns since their week six bye. This also doesn’t bode well for the Dolphins, who don’t utilize their running backs along the goal line, either. Their running back room combined for 13 rush attempts within the five-yard line so far this year, which is fewer than Leonard Fournette.

In week seventeen, things don’t get any better against the bend-but-don’t-break Titans’ run defense. Tennessee is an even worse matchup lately, allowing just 13.8 fantasy points per game to running backs over the last five weeks. They’ve allowed just one game inside the top-fifteen at the position (though Damien Harris ranked as RB17 in week twelve). So, where does this all leave us?

If you have Myles Gaskin, he’s better suited as a flex play. But, I still don’t feel great about it. Duke Johnson is a hero play; a move to make if you’re a massive projected underdog and you need to knock off a top seed. But, he isn’t a guy I want to start in week sixteen for the first time all year. Dance with who brought you, and that isn’t Duke Johnson.

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About Jeff Krisko

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