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Spotlight: Andre Johnson

posted by Steve Holloway on Jul 26th


Steve Holloway's thoughts

Setting the Stage
Andre Johnson played high school football in Miami, Florida and was rated as one of the top prospects in the country, making Parade All-American Team. Even though he was widely recruited including an offer to Southern Cal, he stayed at home and attended the University of Miami. After red-shirting his first season, he mostly played as a kick returner his freshman season and then started at wide receiver as a sophomore. That year he caught 37 passes for 685 yards and scored 10 TDs. He was named MVP of the Rose Bowl as he caught 7 passes for 199 yards and 2 TDs in the win over Nebraska earning Miami their fifth national championship. As a junior, he continued to improve catching 52 passes for 1,092 yards and 9 TDs. For his Miami career, he averaged 19.9 yards per catch and scored 20 TDs.

He also ran track for the University of Miami winning the 60-meter dash (6.83 seconds) in the Big East indoor championship and also winning the 100-meter championship (10.59 seconds) in the Big East outdoor. He was invited to attend the NFL Combine and at 6-feet 2 and 229 pounds ran a 4.41 40-yard dash. His combination of size and speed had many teams coveting him. He was drafted in the first round (3rd overall) by the Houston Texans. He has remained with the team his entire NFL career, which at this point encompasses eleven seasons. His current contract with the Texans extends through the 2016 season.

A review of his career stats provided below shows that he has finished among the top ten wide receivers three times and between WR10 and WR23 another four times. It is also important to note that for the entire period when David Carr was the starting quarterback for the Texans (03-06), Andre Johnson never finished higher than WR18. Carr has posted a career 6.4 ypa and while he was with the Texans, he threw for 59 TDs and 65 interceptions. Schaub joined the Texans in 2007 and he has a career 7.9 ypa. Andre Johnson finished as WR22 in his first year with Schaub and that was playing in only nine games. For the next three years, he finished as WR2, WR1, and WR9.

Year Gms Tgts Recs Catch% RecYds YPR TDs Rank
03 16 119 66 55.5 976 14.8 4 23
04 16 131 79 60.3 1,142 14.5 6 22
05 13 114 63 55.3 688 10.9 2 46
06 16 165 103 62.4 1,147 11.1 5 18
07 9 86 60 69.8 851 14.2 8 22
08 16 170 115 67.6 1,575 13.7 8 2
09 16 171 101 59.1 1,569 15.5 9 1
10 13 136 86 63.2 1,216 14.1 8 9
11 7 75 33 44.0 492 14.9 2 71
Totals 151 1,167 706 60.5 9,656 13.7 52

Johnson's injury issue is the only consideration that will limit expectations for his production in 2012. While true that he missed 12 games combined in the last two seasons, his production in the games that he did play has not significantly dropped on a per game basis. His 2010 stats projected to 16 games played would have resulted in 167 targets and 106 receptions for 1,497 yards and 10 TDs. Although he played in seven games last season, only four of them were played completely healthy and with Schaub as quarterback. Projecting those four games to a full season again results in 148 targets and 100 receptions for 1,404 yards and 8 TDs. Using those projected per game stats, his full seasons equate to a WR3 finish in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

The Texans ran the ball quite a bit more often last year than in recent seasons, but there were several factors that contributed to this offensive philosophy turnaround. The first factor was that the team had injuries first to Johnson and then to Schaub. They were playing the last half of the season with a rookie quarterback that was provided minimal receiving options. They also had a much improved defense that allowed them to play much more conservatively and still win. The final and most important factor was they has a significant lead in their division and more or less played down the stretch trying to prepare for the playoffs.

The following table provides recent history on the offensive philosophy and displays the fact that the offensive dependence on the running game was definitely an outlier of their recent history. The number of passing plays are the actual number of passes and do not include the sacks being counted as passing plays, so the percentages are slightly slanted more to the run percentage.

Year Passes %Passes Rushes %Rushes TotalPlays
03 437 51.1% 419 48.9% 856
04 488 50.5% 479 49.5% 967
05 448 50.7% 435 49.3% 883
06 481 52.8% 430 47.2% 911
07 529 56.0% 416 44.0% 945
08 554 56.2% 431 43.8% 985
09 592 58.3% 424 41.7% 1016
10 574 57.6% 422 42.4% 996
11 467 46.1% 545 53.9% 1012

Even when the passing offense was limited by Carr's ineffectiveness, they still passed more than they ran. In the four previous seasons with Schaub, their lowest ratio before last year was 56/44 favoring the pass.

Looking Forward to 2012
Houston's most significant offensive change heading into 2012 is their offensive line. Their biggest loss there was that their right tackle Eric Winston left for Kansas City. They did re-sign their starting center Chris Myers and also drafted two solid prospects, Brandon Brooks in the third round and Ben Jones in the fourth round. Eventually the new group may wind up a solid unit, but cohesion will be challenged in the early part of the season as they all get used to playing together and possibly having some previous starters at new positions.

Matt Schaub returns from a foot injury, but is expected to be ready to go for training camp. They did not add a free agent wide receiver, nor did they draft a highly touted prospect, so they enter the pre-season with Andre Johnson as the odds on favorite to again lead the team in targets by a significant margin.

Positives

  • Johnson's talent level is head and shoulders above all the other Texan receivers
  • Schaub returns and will again lead the team in his final year under contract
  • The running game's efficiency forces opposing defenses to respect the running game

Negatives

  • Potential injury issues as Johnson has missed 12 games the past two seasons
  • The Texans should again be the class of the division, particularly if the offensive line gels quickly
  • They could again be more reliant on the running game, limiting Johnson's opportunities
  • Johnson has never scored double digit TDs in a season

Final thoughts

Johnson's ADP is currently listed as WR3 and 18 overall and drafting him that high carries some risk based on the number of games he has missed over the past two seasons. On the other hand, he is one of the most talented wide receivers in the NFL and his skill set and opportunity for high targets could enable him to finish the season as the top overall wide receiver.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

FF Ninja said:

As a Houstonian, I love watching Andre Johnson. The guy is just amazing. He started off his career with David Carr which hurt him tremendously and it seems like he never gets quite as much respect as Fitz or Calvin. He gets knocked for not scoring a lot of TDs, but Houston just hasn't thrown many touchdowns. In 2009, Schaub threw 29 and AJ snagged 9 of them. In 2007, he caught 8 TDs in 9 games from a combo of Schaub and Rosenfels (in all of 2007, only 24 TDs were thrown). So even though he has only played in 54 of 64 games from 2007 to 2010, he scored 34% of the receiving TDs. If you take his TD/16 game average there, you get 9.8 TD.

Over that span he averaged 10.4 targets per game. I would think now that we've got such a solid ground game going that this number would drop, but in his first three games this year, he saw 11, 9, and 12 targets and was never fully healthy again until the playoffs in which he saw 9 and 15 targets. So I don't expect to see a significant dip in targets in 2012, especially since the Texans' starters remain the same. Jacoby Jones is gone. MSW is currently on the team. Other than that, the new competition has 0 NFL receptions.

I see no reason to think a healthy Andre Johnson does not regain his 2010 form (or 2011 before injury/after healed - 5 games, 517 yds, 3 TD). He looks like a solid bet for 100 receptions and 1500 yards with 8-10 TDs if he plays 16 games.

TheDirtyWord said:

What killed AJ owners last year wasn't his injury so much as it was the increasing length of his absence. Originally owners clung to optimistic 3-4 week timetables. When he wound up missing close to two months and the extra month wasn't completely revealed until the first months absence was complete...most owners were too tardy in their contingency plans to accommodate the gap he posed in their line-ups.

It didn't seem so long ago that the Houston offense ran directly through Schaub/AJ. In 2009, Matt Schaub had 583 pass attempts; 2010, it was 574. So to see a Houston Texans offense only put the ball up 467 times in 2011 was quite surprising indeed. Let's not just blame Matt Schaub's abbreviated season for this. Schaub was on pace to only have 519 attempts himself. So while I anticipate the Texans to eclipse the 500 mark again here, is the 2011 version of the HOU passing game going to involve 50-60 fewer passing attempts than when Schaub/AJ were considered one of the most feared QB/WR duos in the NFL?

The Houston offense may be a bit squirrelly to predict in 2012. At no time during the 2011 season were Schaub, Foster and Johnson ever healthy at the same time. So, you could blame the lower output of passing attempts on that. Could HOU go back to putting the ball up 575+ times per season? It's possible, but they have a defense now. They have the best RB tandem in the NFL not to mention, probably the best RB in Foster. And quite frankly, in a weak division that will include 2 rebuilding outfits and another with a budding QB controversy, the need to air it out seems negligible. For who the Texans are, or more importantly, now want to be...525 attempts would seem to be their output ceiling.

So as this relates to AJ, the things he's got going against him are:

1. Decreased emphasis on the passing game overall potentially.
2. Hamstring issues
3. He's missed 12 games the last two seasons
4. He'll be 31 this season

What he does have going for him is that the Texans have inexplicably never found compliments to him in the passing game so he is still unquestionably THE guy. His target pace after 3 games was 171. He generates 10-11 targets/game and so long as he's on the field and healthy, will be the driving force behind the HOU passing attack. But how much you can count on Johnson to play 16 games is diminishing and with a player as important to HOU as Johnson still is, if he does incur any injuries, HOU has proven to be overly cautious with him when re-inserting him back to the line-up. Johnson is a high-risk/high-reward player. But the risk might now finally outweigh the reward.

Grahamburn said:

There have been plenty of great fantasy seasons from WRs age 31+. Age shouldn't be a factor here.

From 2007-2010 Andre Johnson averaged 94.6, 98.4, 98.1, and 93.5 yards per game receiving respectively while producing 8, 8, 9, and 8 TDs in those seasons. Simply astounding and consistent production.

I'm not a risk averse person when it comes to injuries. There isn't any predictive value in "injury prone" labels or trying to figure out which player will get hurt and which one won't. I'd rather look at ppg production, and Andre Johnson has been a ppg monster.

The posters predicting numbers in the area of 1,100-1,200 yards and a handful of TDs are predicting injury, there's no other way to interpret those numbers. In which case Andre will have put up some really nice numbers when he was in the lineup.

Unless someone comes out of nowhere, he is the only WR that can legitimately challenge Calvin Johnson for the #1 overall WR crown, and Andre can be had at least a full round later. I really like him this year, and think he will keep his per game yardage totals near his 2007-2010 averages.


Andre Johnson projections

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Steve Holloway901332900
Message board consensus881296800