What are the paths to unlocking Kerryon Johnson's upside?

Projection Spectrum: A deep dive into the range of outcomes for Kerryon Johnson with the arrival of Darrell Bevell.

A Different Kind of Player Spotlight – The Projection Spectrum

As a proud, new member of the Footballguys staff, I'm excited to participate in the Player Spotlight series, but my entries are going to look a bit different. The goal of this series -- which I call the Projection Spectrum -- is to provide fantasy owners with a sense of what a player’s reasonable floor and ceiling are. Knowing this information can be key when making roster construction decisions. There are three primary components in this analysis: Volume quantity, volume quality, and player talent. These three components are the lifeblood of a strong projection model.-- Dwain McFarland

Last season Kerryon Johnson’s opportunities were limited by a three-back committee before having his season cut short due to a knee sprain. Thanks to elite efficiency (5.5 yards per attempt) and passing game involvement (32 receptions), in ten games, he cracked the Top 24 PPR running back list five times and just missed it one other time.

Now Johnson gets a new play-caller in Darrell Bevell who is an unabashed advocate of the run. Bevell’s love for running stems back to playing quarterback at Wisconsin. In 12 seasons as a play-caller, his offenses have ranked in the Top 10 in rushing attempts seven times. His teams have finished in the Top 3 on five different occasions.

The Lions added C.J. Anderson via free agency and drafted Ty Johnson in the sixth round of the NFL draft. Theo Riddick also remains with the team.

What does all of this mean for Kerryon Johnson? Let’s find out.

Volume Quantity

From 2016 to 2018 the NFL average for plays is 1,015. The average for attempts 977 – the Lions were the definition of average in 2018 under Matt Patricia and Jim Bob Cooter.

NFL Averages - Plays, Attempts, and Splits

Year
Plays (Passing = Attempts + Sacks)
Attempts (Passing = Attempts Only)
Plays
Pass
Pass %
Rush
Rush %
Tied Pass %
Tied Rush %
Attempts
Pass
Pass %
Rush
Rush %
2016-2018
1015
595
59%
420
41%
55%
45%
977
557
57%
420
43%

Jim Bob Cooter - Plays, Attempts, and Splits

Coach
Year
Team
Role
Plays (Passing = Attempts + Sacks)
Attempts (Passing = Attempts Only)
Plays
Pass
Pass %
Rush
Rush %
Tied Rush %
Attempts
Pass
Pass %
Rush
Rush %
Cooter
2018
DET
OC
1019
615
60%
404
40%
47%
978
574
59%
404
41%

Darrell Bevell’s historical play volumes are in line with the average as well, but his pass versus run splits lean more towards run except for his last two seasons in Seattle.

Darrell Bevell - Plays, Attempts, and Splits

Coach
Year
Team
Role
Plays (Passing = Attempts + Sacks)
Attempts (Passing = Attempts Only)
Plays
Pass
Pass %
Rush
Rush %
Tied Rush %
Attempts
Pass
Pass %
Rush
Rush %
Bevell
2017
SEA
OC
1007
598
59%
409
41%
45%
964
555
58%
409
42%
Bevell
2016
SEA
OC
1012
609
60%
403
40%
36%
970
567
58%
403
42%
Bevell
2015
SEA
OC
1035
535
52%
500
48%
49%
989
489
49%
500
51%
Bevell
2014
SEA
OC
1021
496
49%
525
51%
49%
979
454
46%
525
54%
Bevell
2013
SEA
OC
973
464
48%
509
52%
52%
929
420
45%
509
55%
Bevell
2012
SEA
OC
974
438
45%
536
55%
53%
941
405
43%
536
57%
Bevell
2011
SEA
OC
1003
559
56%
444
44%
50%
953
509
53%
444
47%
Bevell
2010
MIN
OC
982
541
55%
441
45%
-
946
505
53%
441
47%
Bevell
2009
MIN
OC
1054
587
56%
467
44%
-
1020
553
54%
467
46%
Bevell
2008
MIN
OC
1014
495
49%
519
51%
-
971
452
47%
519
53%
Bevell
2007
MIN
OC
964
470
49%
494
51%
-
926
432
47%
494
53%
Bevell
2006
MIN
OC
1025
583
57%
442
43%
-
982
540
55%
442
45%

Vegas currently has the Lions line for wins at 6.5. Teams that play more from behind tend to pass more. The NFL average for teams winning six games or less is 59% pass since 2011. Bevell was below that mark in each season that his team won eight or fewer games – 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2011.

The word from the Detroit media is Patricia hand-selected Bevell because of his commitment to the run. Given that narrative plus Bevell’s historical tendencies, Detroit will probably throw the ball less in 2019. Rushing won't be on the scale of Bevell’s days in Seattle because the Lions don't have a running quarterback, but it will be up.

More rushing attempts to go around is a good thing for Johnson who will lead the team in touches. However, just how many of those touches is a big question heading into the preseason. Patricia’s deep roots from New England tightly wind around a three-way backfield.

In 2018 three roles emerged during Johnson’s ten games.

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