2015 Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Grab This San Diego Charger
Stevie Johnson’s not a flashy player, but he landed in a fine spot for fantasy value this offseason.
That certainly wasn’t the case last year. The Bills dealt him to San Francisco, where he sat 3rd on the depth chart behind Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. Playing on such a run-heavy offense -- the 49ers ranked 29 th in pass attempts -- Johnson had no shot at consistent fantasy value.
So Johnson remained useless for fantasy players for most of the season. He notched a 9-103 line in Week 3, but that accounted for 26% of his season-long catches and 24% of his season-long yardage. Johnson surpassed 3 catches just 2 other times, while he cracked 50 yards in only 1 other matchup.
He tied for 3rd on the team in targets with a mere 50 and played an average of 23.4 snaps per outing. Not exactly a recipe for fantasy value.
Injuries factored into Johnson’s lowly production. He battled a hip injury early in the season, although it didn’t force him to the inactives list. But a late-season knee injury sidelined him for the final 3 contests. His 7 th NFL season ended with a predictably poor 35-435-3 line.
The 49ers released Johnson over the winter in a cost-saving move. San Diego swooped in and offered him a decent sized deal at 3 years and $10.5 million. He profiles as the primary inside receiver with Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd out wide. Johnson ran 34% of his routes out of the slot last season and played there much more often back in Buffalo.
It’s also a role in which Eddie Royal excelled for the Bolts last year. He recorded 62 catches and 778 yards -- totals he hadn’t reached since his rookie year -- and added 7 TDs.
Johnson figures to see the bulk of the 91 targets that flew Royal’s way last year. And there's upside for more given Antonio Gates' 4-game suspension for PED use. We can’t expect a repeat of Royal’s 31 st-place finish in PPR setups. 2014 marked Royal’s 3rd year alongside Philip Rivers, while Royal benefited from Allen missing 2.5 games. Royal also scored 3 times from the 5-yard line or closer. Johnson might see similar red-zone use, but that's a tough feat to repeat.
Ultimately, we see the new Charger sitting 3rd in targets behind Allen and Gates. A possible emergence from 4 th-year TE Ladarius Green presents a minor threat to Johnson’s workload. But the Bolts showed last year that they prefer 3-WR sets, and we see Johnson as an upgrade over Royal.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line:
Johnson’s still in his prime at 29. He’s moving from an offense that passed on 50.9% of its plays last year to one that passed nearly 60% of the time. And the move from Colin Kaepernick to Philip Rivers provides a major upgrade in week to week stability. Johnson’s unlikely to surpass 100 targets barring an injured teammate. But as a reliable short and mid-range option, he’s a candidate for WR3 production -- especially in PPR formats. He’s a sneaky value in drafts.