Spotlight: Andre Johnson

posted by Anthony Borbely on Jun 28th


Anthony Borbely's thoughts

After being drafted third overall in the 2003 NFL draft, great things were expected from Andre Johnson. The Texans had drafted QB David Carr first overall the previous year and Johnson was expected to add another elite young talent for the Texans to build around. But Carr never developed and that hindered Johnson. His best fantasy season was the 2005 season when he finished 18th in WR scoring. That is not what was expected of a top three draft pick that had just finished his fourth season.

Things began to change after the 2006 season. David Carr was out and Matt Schaub was the new starting QB. In the first two games they played together, Johnson caught 14 passes for 262 yards and three TDs. Finally, the Johnson owners had a reason to be excited. That did not last long as Johnson was injured and missed the next seven games. When Johnson returned, he picked up right where he left off and finished the season with 60/851/8 in only nine games, which would have projected to 107/1513/14 over a 16-game season. Those numbers would have placed Johnson second in fantasy points. Aside from the TDs, those are remarkably similar to Johnson's numbers in 2008 and 2009, when he finished second and first in fantasy points, respectively.

Below are Johnson's statistics over the last three years, including the prorated numbers from the 2007 season:

Year Targets Recs Yards TDs
2007 153 107 1513 14
2008 170 115 1575 8
2009 171 101 1569 9

When considering the prorated numbers along with the last two seasons, the numbers show that Johnson had evolved into the top WR in fantasy football. Although Schaub struggled some in his first two years, he put up elite QB numbers last year and has developed great chemistry with Johnson. Johnson has had at least 170 targets in each of the last two seasons and was on pace for similar targets in 2007.

In the 41 games Johnson played from 2007 through 2009, he had some impressive numbers. Below is a more detailed breakdown of those 41 games:

Target numbers
10 or more: 25 games
7-9: 12 games
6 or fewer: 4 games

As you can see, Johnson has been heavily and consistently targeted in the last three years. When a WR has seven or more targets in 37 of 41 games and is as talented as Johnson, you know he will put up elite numbers. He had over 100 yards in 18 of those games and only had less than 50 yards an incredible five times. He has had at least one TD in 20 of the 41 games. Those are some impressive numbers and combined with the consistency of them, it is no surprise that Johnson has been near the top of the fantasy rankings in the last two years and was on pace to do the same in 2007. Johnson's average numbers in the last three years are much higher than what he did in his first four seasons. The change in those numbers coincided with the departure of David Carr.

I also want to mention injuries. Johnson had been labeled as an injury-prone player in the past. At the end of the 2007 season, Johnson had only played in 38 of the last 48 games and it was natural to consider labeling Johnson as a player with injury issues. However, he has now played seven seasons and has played in all 16 games five times. He has missed ten games in his career and seven were because of a serious injury in 2007. Other than that, he has missed three games total in his other six seasons. I think it is safe to say that Johnson is not injury-prone.

Positives

  • Johnson is arguably the most consistent WR in the league
  • The Texans still have questions at RB and are likely to maintain a pass-first offense
  • Matt Schaub has developed into a top-notch QB and has great chemistry with Johnson

Negatives

  • Regardless of the reasons, the fact is that Johnson has never had double-digit TDs in his seven-year career
  • Johnson has issues with his contract and it is possible that it could affect his play
  • Schaub has been banged up in the past and backup QB Dan Orlovsky is unproven

Final thoughts

Andre Johnson is an elite talent with no major weaknesses. He is big, fast, runs good routes, and has great hands. His run after the catch abilities are top-notch. Matt Schaub has stabilized the QB position and Johnson's numbers rose dramatically from the first time he played with Schaub. When talking about fantasy WRs, Johnson is in a small group that should contend for the top spot. The difference to me is that I believe Johnson's floor is much higher than any other receiver and his consistency is off the charts. In my opinion, Johnson is clearly the safest player at any position and ranking him as the top fantasy WR this year seems like a no brainer.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

MrTwo94 said:

Never been able to put up the big TD numbers except for his injury shortened 2007 season. People think he just can't get it done in the red zone, but that's simply not true. He gets a LOT of attention down there and the coaching staff has been more than willing to work with this and take what the defense gives them and just throw to a wide open Kevin Walter or Owen Daniels. If OD's emergence forces defenses to get more honest then we could easily see 12+ TD, but for now let's just expect another season approaching 1600 yards.

There has been some concern about losing Kyle Shanahan, but he was a young WR coach just a couple seasons ago. Kubiak had taken him under his wing and let him call the offensive plays after he got comfortable with him, but he was basically Kubiak Jr. Now Kubiak has replaced him with the o-line coach he worked with in Denver. The offense will be the exact same (except maybe minus the Chris Brown halfback pass play).

I think with Kevin Walter fully healthy (and the off chance of Jacoby becoming relevant), AJ will be open more often and should be closer to his 2008 receptions than 2009, but does it really matter? ~1600 yds is money no matter how you get it. Also, there's a chance our run game will be a slight threat this year. That can't hurt, unless we become a run dominant team, but I fear we are still not close to that.

Iwannabeacowboybaby! said:

Unquestionably the No. 1 WR in PPR leagues and the WR that has the least amount of question marks heading into this season making him the safest selection at WR in the league. The only downfall this guy has is he's remarkably never caught double digit Td's in a season.

rzrback77 said:

Andre Johnson is the perfect ppr WR. He is an extraordinary athlete with speed, hops, and great hands. He has a very good QB who has developed a great connection with AJ. He has two straight seasons with over 100 receptions and he remains the obvious #1 target for Matt Schaub. The Texans have not been successful running the ball recently. Theeir RBs averaged only 3.7 ypc in 09 with 365 carries.

The team in 09 had 592 passes and only rushes, so the passing game is the focus of the attack. The only issue with having Andre Johnson on your team is that you MUST have a top half of the first round pick and be willing to spend it on a WR. Some folks just can't pull the trigger on Andre Johnson or any WR in the top half of the first round. Absolute best situation is having the 8th or 9th pick in a ppr league where the owners all love drafting RBs in the first or being an AJ owner is a dynasty league.


Andre Johnson projections

RECRECYDRECTDRSHYDRSHTD
Anthony Borbely10515601000
Message board consensus1071529900