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Pick-a-Player: Anderson, Crowell, or Johnson - Footballguys

Footballguys staff and Facebook answer a dilemma at the 8.07 spot

The premise of a Pick-a-Player question is as follows:

  • You need a player at that position and all three are available.
  • The draft is at a stage where these players are usually drafted, and none of their bye weeks are duplicated on your current roster.

We ask two groups of people: the Footballguys staff, and the great people following the Footballguys Facebook page. If you'd like to answer a future Pick-a-Player question, they are being posted daily on our page. Like and Follow us, and you can join the great discussions taking place every day.

In this case, it is a PPR league, and you are up at Pick 8.07. Would you take C.J. Anderson, Isaiah Crowell, or Duke Johnson Jr? Or would you pass on all three?

The Results

And the winner is it depends. See the percentages below.

Group
Percentage Picking...
Anderson
Crowell
Johnson
None of the Three
Footballguys Staff
5.9%
58.8%
17.6%
17.6%
Footballguys Facebook
28.9%
11.1%
37.8%
22.2%

The Reasons (from the Staff)

Jason Wood: Isaiah Crowell is the play here. Anderson is talented, but at best he’s going to fill Jonathan Stewart’s role last year in Carolina. McCaffrey is strong and talented enough to handle a larger workload, and if the Panthers coaches are rational, Anderson will be a pure backup. Duke Johnson Jr has almost no chance of being a ball-carrier. He’s the third-down back unless both Nick Chubb and Carlos Hyde are hurt. Crowell’s value is hardly secure, but he has the clearest path to be a No. 1 for his team.

Clayton Gray: I'm really warming to Crowell. He's currently better than the 2016 version of Matt Forte, who was a starting fantasy running back. Crowell should be able to do that in 2018.

Bob Henry: Crowell for me, too. Not enamored with the role that Anderson will likely fill for the Panthers since McCaffrey garners all the targets in the passing game and Cam steals most of the goal line opportunities. Anderson seems destined for a role, but one that is diminished from a fantasy scoring potential on either the PPR or scoring side of the equation.

While I like Duke Johnson Jr's game, I am usually passing on him at his ADP, and if given the choice between Crowell and Duke, I'm going with Crowell, but I am just as likely to pass on all three at this stage in favor of a receiver, tight end or (depending on who is sitting there) a quarterback.

Justin Howe: This one is close for me, but in PPR formats I lean toward Johnson. He's being written off almost universally, but the changes in the Cleveland backfield don't look to ding his role too drastically. And that role made him the per-game PPR RB11 last year; even a noticeable drop in opportunity would keep him an easy flex option week after week.

Crowell comes next for me, as he has a far clearer path to workhorse status than does Anderson. Crowell isn't a dominator, and his offense won't be very good, but even his mid-range projections rival or beat Anderson's ceiling. As Bob pointed out, Anderson's value will be at the mercy of Cam Newton on the goal line and Christian McCaffrey everywhere else.

Matt Waldman: Isaiah Crowell has always been an underrated back in the NFL. There's a lot of blame placed on him for the Browns' offensive troubles, but if he earned the carries Le'Veon Bell got in Pittsburgh, no one would be bad-mouthing him.

The reason he didn't earn Bell's carries has to do with game script and quarterback play. The Browns haven't had a quarterback who could reliably manage the offense:

  • Make adjustments at the line to get the team into better plays.
  • Win from the pocket in a timely fashion that leads to on-time throws.
  • Avoiding sacks and turnovers.

These issues lead to fewer offensive drives, additional pressure on a bad defense, and difficulty remaining in the game during the final minutes where there the run game can have a compounding effect on a defense.

I like Duke Johnson Jr, but I'm still curious how Todd Haley will use him. The new contract suggests a lot of usage, but the draft pick of Chubb at the top of the second round to a coordinator with a history of feature backs manning his backfields says, not so fast.

Anderson could wind up a surprise top-15 back but there are a lot of If/Then variables that must occur for him to get the volume. Based on how close this trio is, and injury rates to runners, Anderson and Crowell are more likely than Johnson to earn lead-back volume even if Johnson has more PPR upside as it stands today.

If Sam Darnold doesn't start and either Bridgewater or McCown are the top guy, Crowell makes the most sense.

James Brimacombe: I am also on Crowell out of this bunch. He has a better opportunity to see a higher volume of work and still has potential to have that big breakout type of season. Anderson and Johnson have the feel of complementary type of players that will be hard to trust each week.

Daniel Simpkins: I'll also take Crowell here. I agree with Matt's take that on any other contending NFL team, we would see him as a star at this point in his career. I also concur that a quarterback who can manage the game will do wonders for Crowell's ability to produce. I think New York has sent all the signals that they want to sit Darnold for a year. I feel confident in either Bridgewater and McCown to give Crowell the opportunity he needs to succeed.

Will Grant: Crowell for all the reasons above. At 8.07, I'm looking to fill out my roster with guys who I can feel comfortable starting because odds are they will be In my lineup several times this year. That's Crowell out of these three.

David Dodds: Despite seemingly being in the league awhile, Crowell is just 25 years old and is expected to be the primary back on the Jets. I have him rated significantly higher than both Duke Johnson Jr and C.J. Anderson who I feel have limited upside based on the other running backs on their prospective rosters.

Ryan Hester: My initial thought here was Duke Johnson Jr, but a look at Cleveland's depth chart reminded me that their wide receiver group is stronger this year than last when Johnson saw a chunk of his 94 targets as a slot receiver.

None of these players are inspiring enough to select at this position.

Chad Parsons: Duke Johnson Jr is my pick. While the Browns have added a glut of offensive talent this offseason, the other two have a limited ceiling and clearly need an injury to amount to much fantasy-wise. Johnson can be a flex for teams weekly with upside for more if the Browns have negative game scripts and are not the turn-around NFL team many project this season. In Round 8, Johnson is likely in the RB3 or RB4 depth chart spot for owners where a player is projected to see situational starts and fill in for injured players in the opening month or two of the season.

Jeff Tefertiller: Of the three, I have Crowell lowest by a good margin. He has failed to impress so far in his career but still has some supporters. Lacking chops as a receiver will also lead to a limited role. Anderson is an oft-injured tease who will look great for a few games. In Carolina, McCaffrey will limit receptions and Newton will limit touchdowns. Sure, he could have a couple of 100-yard games, but I am doubting a nine-score season like not long ago. Johnson is my favorite of the group given his excellence in the passing game. While it is a stretch to rely on Hue Jackson for fantasy relevance, Johnson would be amazing if used effectively.

Phil Alexander: Cam Newton limiting running back touchdowns at the goal-line is an easily debunked myth. Since 2015, Jonathan Stewart has run the ball from inside the opponent's 5-yard line 43 times. The only running backs with more goal-line carries in the same span are Devonta Freeman (46) and LeGarrette Blount (52). Stewart is also tied for second since 2015 with 19 goal-line touchdowns. Only Todd Gurley (21) has more.

Like most of the others, I currently have Crowell ranked first of these three, but Anderson may move past him on my next update. Carolina beat writers are speculating McCaffrey may not see the uptick in carries many are expecting. Anderson -- unlike the dried-out husk of Stewart -- is still an above-average running back. If we can pencil him into Stewart's 2017 role (~200 carries with 15 of those coming at the goal line), he grades out as mid-RB2, even in PPR leagues.

We also have to consider Anderson's upside if some calamity were to befall McCaffrey. The healthy return of Greg Olsen and addition of D.J. Moore in the first round of the NFL draft have the arrow pointing up for the already-solid Panthers offense. We know Johnson is completely one-dimensional for fantasy purposes, and even if Crowell were guaranteed a three-down role with the beleaguered Jets (he's not), there isn't much happening in New York to get excited about.

The case can be made for all of these guys as ADP values, but only one of them can be a reason you win your league, and that's Anderson.

B.J. VanderWoude: Phil pretty much nailed this. I have Crowell as the top pick here. He has performed well, averaging 4.2 yards per carry in his first four seasons. Crowell also brings a big play element, having at least one 54+ yard run in each of the last three seasons. He has done well with his opportunities in the passing game, and the only thing missing really was more volume. He will again be in a timeshare, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him become the Jets bell-cow back at some point this season. Duke Johnson Jr is a fine pick if you are looking for consistent points each week, but he’s the only one of the three that has no real way of outproducing his current flood.

I’m not writing off C.J. Anderson either.

Jonathan Stewart had 198 carries last season, and averaged 3.4 yards per carry, with eight games of at least 14+ carries. Anderson averaged 4.1 yards per carry on 245 carries last season, with nine games of at least 15+ carries.

Stewart was on the field for 402 snaps, so if you throw in his eight catches, he was seeing roughly one touch for every two snaps. If he was more effective, he would definitely be seeing more touches. Anderson IS more effective and brings more skills as a pass catcher.

I expect McCaffrey to be more involved this year, but there seems to be an awful lot of volume available to his counterpart. Especially around the goal line as Phil mentioned.

Danny Tuccitto: I'll eliminate C.J. Anderson right off the bat, as I have no idea why his ADP is in range of Crowell's or Johnson's. Sixth-year castoff running back that also has Christian McCaffrey ahead of him on the depth chart? Yes, please? That's bonkers.

Between Crowell and Johnson, I prefer Crowell, but would probably pass on both at 8.07. Per ADP, there's a cornucopia of upside running backs available at 9.06 or later, including Jamaal Williams and Corey Clement. Not to mention that ADP suggests there's also wide receiver value available at this pick (e.g., DeVante Parker, Robby Anderson, etc.).

Devin Knotts: This is the part of the draft that if you are targeting these players it is purely out of desperation as something has gone wrong earlier in your draft. No one should feel great taking one of these three running backs.

Duke Johnson Jr is the guy that if I had to target someone I would target as the Browns committed to Duke with a contract extension this season. He is the only one of these three who has a defined role although I don't anticipate him having 74 receptions once again as Jarvis Landry will eat into some of that volume.

Andy Hicks: At this stage of the draft, I would probably pass on all three players unless I desperately needed a running back. In that case, I would take Isaiah Crowell. He is the only player listed here who has the upside to be a starting running back for fantasy teams. We probably have not seen Crowell play to his full ability given the problems the Browns had on offense. With the Jets, it may not be any better, but if he clicks with the offense his upside is worth the risk. I would probably want to see how things pan out during training camp though.