Fantasy Football Breakouts and Busts | Daniel Jones vs. David Johnson

Welcome to Breakouts and Busts where I highlight one breakout candidate and one bust candidate for the 2021 fantasy season. In this edition, I’ll be taking a look at the starting QB for the Giants who’s poised for a career year and a RB in a crowded backfield in the Lone Star State.

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BREAKOUT - Daniel Jones (QB - NYG)



2020 Season Overview


(stats from pro-football-reference.com)


After a solid rookie campaign in 2019 where Daniel Jones threw for 3027 yards, 24 TDs and 12 INTs in just 13 games, expectations were quite high for the New York Giants QB heading into 2020, where he was a massive disappointment. Saying Jones struggled last season is an understatement. It was an unmitigated disaster. Absolutely nothing went right for the Giants a year ago. RB Saquon Barkley played in just two games in 2020 before suffering a season-ending injury, WR Sterling Shepard missed 4 games due to injury and even Daniel Jones himself was dealing with a hamstring issue for a good chunk of the year. This all led to Jones having a severely underwhelming 2020 season.


Jones completed 280 of his 448 attempts for 2943 yards, 11 TDs and 10 INTs. On the ground, he ran the ball 65 times for 423 yards, 1 TD and 6 lost fumbles. Overall, that’s just 12 total TDs and 16 total turnovers. Those numbers aren’t great by any means and we’ve seen other QBs do more with less. Daniel Jones finished as the QB24 in 4pt and 6pt passing TD leagues. If he played a full 16 game schedule, he would’ve ended up the QB23 in 4pt and 6pt passing TD leagues, so not much of a difference.


What Went Wrong in 2020?


Turnovers.


He's known Daniel "Fumble" Jones for a reason and it’s because he’s very clumsy with the football. Since coming into the league, the only thing Jones has done consistently is turn the ball over. That’s not to be facetious, it’s just the truth. Whether it’s holding the ball too long or forcing a pass into a dangerous area, Jones’ decision making has constantly let him down at the professional level. If it wasn’t for his tendency to turn the ball over, Daniel Jones could’ve actually been a decent fantasy option over the past two seasons.


Just to put things into perspective, in his rookie year, Jones turned the ball over a whopping 23 times in 13 games. In 2020, he turned the ball over 16 times in 14 games. Overall, that’s 39 turnovers in 27 games, meaning Jones averages a mind-blowing 1.44 turnovers a game, the highest among any QB over the last two seasons.




(stats from playerprofiler.com)


Taking a look at opportunity and productivity, we can see that Daniel Jones didn’t get a lot of opportunities whether that was due to injury or because the coaches didn’t trust him enough to let him loose. The most interesting stats to me are his danger plays and interceptable passes where he ranked 5th and 8th in the league respectively. This just highlights how Jones has a tendency to panic and make the wrong decisions time and time again.


What Will Change in 2021?


The supporting cast.


The New York Giants have more weapons on offense than they’ve had in the last five years. They made arguably the biggest splash in Free Agency, signing WR Kenny Golladay to a 4-year, $72 million deal. Golladay is one of the premier WRs in the NFL and should immediately become Jones’ favorite target. The G-Men also signed speedy WR John Ross to a 1-year, $2.25 million contract and drafted Kadarius Toney from Florida in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, so they have plenty of new WRs to play alongside Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton. At the TE position, New York signed Kyle Rudolph to a 2-year, $16 million contract, giving the Giants the ability to line him up in some two TE sets with Evan Engram. They even signed RB Devontae Booker to a 2-year, $5.5 million contract to take a very small amount of the workload off Saquon Barkley, who will be ready and healthy by the start of the 2021 season. Barkley’s ability to both run and catch will take a lot of the pressure off of Jones who could dump the ball off to his star RB when under duress.


As you can see, the Giants are absolutely loaded with weapons at RB, WR and TE heading into 2021. This is without a doubt the best supporting cast Daniel Jones has ever had in his career. I don’t expect Jones to take a massive step forward this season, as his turnover problems are likely to continue, but with all the talent surrounding him, he should be able to at least join the low-end QB1 conversation and have his first 4000 passing yard season. Honestly, this year is make or break for Jones. If he can't succeed with this group of players, he flat out may not be good enough to be a starter in the NFL.


Verdict


As of writing this article, according to FantasyPros, Daniel Jones is their 19th-ranked QB and 193rd overall in their Expert Consensus Rankings. He’s likely going undrafted or getting picked up in the final rounds as a second QB. Considering he has the potential to be a low-end QB1, you should only be drafting Jones in 2QB leagues or if you drafted one of the riskier QBs such as Jalen Hurts (PHI), Ryan Tannehill (TEN) or Matt Ryan (ATL). If he goes undrafted, make sure to place Jones on your watch list and keep tabs on how he’s doing. He’s going around the same time as other QBs, such as Baker Mayfield (CLE), Ben Roethlisberger (PIT), Derek Carr (LV) and Cam Newton (NE). I think Mayfield is also a good choice as a second QB since he shined near the end of last year, but I definitely think Jones has higher upside than Roethlisberger, Carr and Newton.


Over a full season, I project Daniel Jones will throw for 4200 yards, 28 TDs and 12 INTs. On the ground, he will run for 400 yards, 2 TDs and 8 lost fumbles. In total, that’s 30 TDs and 20 turnovers. Those stats would’ve been enough to make Jones the QB12 in 4pt and 6pt passing TD leagues last season, making him a low-end QB1. I expect Jones to finish around QB10-12 next season, making him worth owning in fantasy leagues with 12 or more teams.


BUST - David Johnson (RB - HOU)



2020 Season Overview



(stats from pro-football-reference.com)


After spending the first five seasons of his career with the Arizona Cardinals, David Johnson was traded to the Houston Texans along with a 2021 2nd-round pick and a 2022 4th-round pick for DeAndre Hopkins and a 2021 4th-round pick. The trade was deemed one of the most lopsided trades in NFL history and worked out well for both players in their first season with their new team.


David Johnson missed four games in 2020, but when he was on the field, he was the Texans’ bellcow back and consistently produced for fantasy. David Johnson ended the season with 147 rushing attempts for 691 yards and 6 TDs. Through the air, he caught 33 of his 46 targets for 314 yards and 2 TDs. In total, that’s 180 touches for 1005 yards and 8 TDs, averaging 5.6 yards per touch. Johnson was drafted between the 5th-7th round and ended the season with the 16th most fantasy points per game for an RB in half and full PPR leagues. Despite missing a quarter of the season, he ended the year as the RB19 in half PPR and the RB21 in full PPR. Johnson was a must start in 2020 when healthy.


What Went Right in 2020?


Workload.


David Johnson was the unquestioned bellcow back for the Houston Texans and his job was never under threat. The other DJ, Duke Johnson, didn’t come close to taking a piece of David Johnson’s workload, as he failed to impress when David was injured. Duke wasn’t able to do much of anything when David was on IR, which led to a 77.4% snap share for David, the 2nd highest in the NFL.



(stats from playerprofiler.com)


Taking a look at opportunity and productivity, David Johnson’s opportunity metrics are quite impressive while his productivity metrics are decent. Not only did Johnson have a very high snap share, he also had a high opportunity share, which is the percentage of a total team’s RB carries and targets. He had a 73.7% opportunity share, good enough for 8th in the NFL. These statistics show that David Johnson was the guy in the Texans backfield all season long. Most of his productivity stats are inside the top 24, which shows that he was able to still end up as an RB2 despite missing a chunk of the season.


If David Johnson was healthy for a full 16 games, he would’ve ended the season with 196 rushing attempts for 921 yards and 8 TDs. Through the air, he would’ve caught 44 of his 61 targets for 419 yards and 3 TDs. In total, that’s 240 touches for 1340 yards and 11 TDs. It wasn’t bad at all for a 28-year-old RB who has dealt with injury problems his whole career.


What Will Change in 2021?


Competition.


Let’s face it, there’s not a single player on the Texans right now who looks appealing for fantasy. The team is an absolute dumpster fire at the current moment and that’s putting things lightly.


When the Texans let Duke Johnson walk in free agency, it seemed like David Johnson would be in for an even bigger workload this upcoming season, but things have changed significantly since then. For starters, the RB room is getting very crowded in Houston. The Texans signed RB Mark Ingram to a 1-year, $3 million deal after he fell out of favor in the Baltimore backfield. Then, as if adding one back wasn’t already enough, they even signed two-time 1000 yard rusher and former Denver Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay to a 1-year, $2.25 million contract. As you can see, the Texans backfield is shaping up to be a lot like the Ravens’ messy backfield from the first half of 2020 except, you know, worse in every way imaginable.


On top of all that, it looks like Deshaun Watson will be facing at least some kind of suspension from the NFL. Typically, the length of these suspensions could vary from 6 weeks to an entire season, so we’ll just have to wait and see how long it is. Whatever the case may be, it’s bad news for the Texans offense as they’ll likely have no choice but to go with Tyrod Taylor as their starter in 2021. That’s a clear downgrade from Deshaun Watson, who’s without a doubt one of the elite QBs in the NFL. Yeah, the Texans are looking like an offense to avoid completely in fantasy this season.


Verdict


As of writing this article, according to FantasyPros, David Johnson is their 28th-ranked RB and 64th overall in their Expert Consensus Rankings. He’s currently being drafted anywhere between the 6th and 8th round in 12 team mock drafts, which is completely absurd to me. He’s going around the same time as other RBs, such as Ronald Jones II (TB), Kenyan Drake (LV), Raheem Mostert (SF) and Chase Edmonds (ARI). I can confidently say that Mostert, Edmonds and Drake are better options than Johnson in this range. Johnson is a 10th round pick to me at best as I just can’t trust that Texans offense one bit.


I project David Johnson to run the ball 170 times for 680 yards and 4 TDs. Through the air, Johnson will catch 24 of his 34 targets for 240 yards and 1 TD. In total, that’s 194 touches for 920 yards and 5 TDs, averaging 4.7 yards per touch. Johnson should still get close to 200 touches, but I just don’t think he’s going to turn them into much in this new and certainly not improved Texans offense. Those numbers would’ve made David Johnson the RB32 in half PPR and the RB31 in full PPR last season. DJ is definitely on my avoid list heading into 2021 fantasy football drafts.

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