Stevie Johnson’s 2013 Fantasy Football Outlook
Johnson has been a consistent WR2 over the past 3 seasons and Buffalo's most talented receiver by far. He has finished 10th, 21st and 23rd in points since 2010 — the only fantasy beneficiary of the Ryan Fitzpatrick era. Johnson surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the 3rd consecutive year in 2012, posting 79 grabs for 1,046 yards and 6 TDs.
Johnson got off to a hot start last season, catching TDs in the team's first 3 matchups. He then cooled off in the red zone, hauling in just 3 more scores the rest of the way. But he saw at least 8 targets in 10 of the team's final 13 games, once again proving the only reliable receiver for Fitzpatrick and the Bills. He garnered a whopping 29.0% of the team's total passing targets, a better rate than even Calvin Johnson managed in Detroit (27.7%).
Johnson enters 2013 with a new coaching regime and a new QB. The latter will most likely be Kevin Kolb to begin the season. But 1st-round rookie E.J. Manuel could take over at some point.
New HC Doug Marrone and OC Nathaniel Hackett bring a pro-style, high-tempo offense from Syracuse to Buffalo. Despite all the changes, Johnson sounds enthused about where things are headed this year: "When I came in, and I saw what we're doing, the tempo and the type of team we're building, my faith was just sky high. I just can't wait to get out there."
The 26-year-old will once again be the team's clear-cut top WR. But he does face several challenges. For all of the ribbing on Fitzpatrick, the former Bills QB established a fairly steady rapport with his #1 receiver. Kolb's inconsistency was a main reason Larry Fitzgerald fell to 41st in the league in receiving yards last year. And while Johnson does make the occasional circus catch, he sometimes fails to squeeze the easy one. According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson dropped 11 balls last year, tied for 7th most in the NFL.
Buffalo brought in several intriguing receivers on draft weekend who could fight for the #2 spot. Second-round pick Robert Woods figures to have the inside track to the job, but other guys like T.J. Graham, Marcus Easley and even rookie free agent Da'Rick Rogers should get a look as well. Johnson will have to compete for targets among this bunch in an offense that will center on RB C.J. Spiller.
Another factor that could cut into Johnson's piece of pie this year is a schedule that features some tough matchups in the secondary. The Jets sent Darrelle Revis to Tampa, but the Bucs' much-improved backfield will take on Buffalo in Week 14. Other potentially-challenging matchups include the Bengals, Steelers, Ravens, Jaguars, Panthers and Falcons, all of whom finished in the top half of the league in preventing WR fantasy points in 2012. Johnson has played well against tough CBs in the past — most notably Revis. But he'll be asked to do it repeatedly in 2013 with a new QB delivering the football.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line:
Johnson is looking to make it 4 straight years of 1,000-yard production. But he'll have to do so in a new offense with a different QB. In a scheme that figures to be run-heavy, Johnson will need to make every target count to live up to a WR2 billing. It will be hard to match the 148 targets he saw last year — a number that ranked 8th among WRs. A durable guy who hasn't missed a game since 2009, he carries value as a mid-round round pick after the marquee WRs fly off the board. But expect a slight regression in his overall numbers as the team looks to get comfortable in the midst of a personnel overhaul.