After months of offseason rumors, the Cleveland Browns finally found a new home for running back Duke Johnson Jr., sending him to the Houston Texans in exchange for a 2020 draft pick. Now, instead of being buried on the Browns’ offensive depth chart, the 25-year-old receiving back should be fantasy relevant once again in 2019.
Johnson Jr. saw a career-low 87 touches last season but managed to score three touchdowns and rack up 630 yards from scrimmage; his 7.2 yards per touch was the best of his career. However, trade demands and rumors this offseason, he was going to be stuck behind second-year bulldozer Nick Chubb before Kareem Hunt returned from suspension.
Earlier this week, Houston released D’Onta Foreman (the expected backup) while last year’s backup, Alfred Blue, is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Johnson Jr. will immediately step into that role behind incumbent starter Lamar Miller. The 28-year-old totaled just 1,136 yards from scrimmage last season, his lowest since 2013 campaign.
Miller’s streaky play and overall lack of receiving talent should allow the newcomer to carve out a nice role. While backing up Isaiah Crowell in 2017, Johnson Jr. still managed over 1,000 yards from scrimmage while hauling in 74 receptions, good for fourth-most among NFL running backs. There’s plenty of reason to believe that he can produce similar numbers in 2019 next to Miller.
Johnson Jr. is an elite receiving back even if he won’t be a clear-cut No. 1 workhorse anytime soon. He turns 26 in September and should be entering his prime with this newfound role. Should Miller continue to struggle, expect the University of Miami product to cut into his workload.