Hue Jackson didn't win a game in his second year as Browns head coach, but he finally found a way to make Duke Johnson exciting. The trick is getting him to do it again. Johnson posted career-highs in targets, catches, receiving yards and touchdowns -- all while posting modest rushing stats. He seems destined to continue in his passing-heavy role, which means it wouldn't be a surprise to see him catch well over 50 passes and accumulate over 800 total yards of offense. The touchdowns, however, could fluctuate wildly, especially with Carlos Hyde and rookie Nick Chubb taking on roles in the Browns run game. Johnson's best value lays in PPR formats where he's worth a pick around 70th overall. In non-PPR leagues, though, Johnson could disappoint despite last year's successes, so he'd be better off in Round 8.
Johnson signed a three-year extension with the Browns on Thursday worth $15.6 million, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. Even after the Browns drafted former Georgia tailback Nick Chubb with the No. 35 overall pick in the draft, they showed with this extension that they are committed to Johnson playing a vital role in the team's backfield for this upcoming season and beyond. Johnson is coming off a career-best season in 2017, posting 74 receptions, 1,041 yards from scrimmage and seven total touchdowns, and he should continue to operate as the team's number one option in the backfield on passing downs. Johnson, however, will face more competition for touches in the offense this season with the additions of tailback Carlos Hyde and wide receiver Jarvis Landry on top of the return of Josh Gordon.
The Browns drafted Nick Chubb at No. 35 overall to join Johnson and Carlos Hyde in their backfield, Bud Shaw of The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Given that he caught 13 passes in 34 games after his freshman season, Chubb is a much bigger threat to Hyde than to Johnson. Coming off a 2017 campaign in which he comfortably established new personal bests for scrimmage yards (1,041), receptions (74) and touchdowns (seven), Johnson is locked in as Cleveland's top backfield option for passing downs. He faces an uphill battle to match last year's volume in an offense that now includes Hyde, Chubb, Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon, but the 2015 third-round pick nonetheless figures to retain a significant role. Entering the final season of his rookie contract, Johnson reportedly was discussing an extension with the Browns back in mid-March, though he still doesn't have a new deal.
Johnson is discussing a new contract with the Browns, NFL.com's Michael Silver reports. Impressive in a part-time role his first two seasons, the 2015 third-round pick enjoyed a mini-breakout in 2017 despite essentially filling the same role. He'll be part of an improved offense featuring Tyrod Taylor this upcoming season, though it could be tough to duplicate last year's 74 catches and 93 targets with Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry on the roster. There's also some chance the Browns use one of their many early draft picks on a running back, though the desire to sign Johnson to an extension suggests that's no sure thing. We'll have a better read on Johnson's future once the draft is complete.
Johnson carried six times for 20 yards and a touchdown Sunday against the Steelers. He also caught all six of his targets for 75 yards and lost a fumble in the 28-24 loss. Johnson managed just 3.3 yards per carry, but he chipped in his usual reliable contribution as a pass catcher as he still finished with his second-highest scrimmage yards total of the season. The third-year back never really threatened Isaiah Crowell's grasp on early-down work, but his impressive 684 receiving yards on 74 catches allowed him to eclipse 1,000 scrimmage yards for the first time in his career. Johnson has one year remaining on his rookie contract and seems secure in his role as a receiving threat out of the backfield regardless of the changes the Browns offense could undergo in the offseason.
Johnson (shoulder) was a limited participant in Wednesday's practice, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal reports. Johnson was also limited at practice last Wednesday before returning to full participation Thursday and Friday. He had four carries for 20 yards and seven caches for 81 yards in a 20-3 loss to the Bears, accounting for 39 percent of Cleveland's yardage in a dismal performance. Johnson will now prepare to face a Pittsburgh defense that limited him to two catches for 20 yards (and zero carries) back in Week 1.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|2||09/16||@New Orleans Saints||12||17.22|
|3||09/21||New York Jets||24||18.50|
|6||10/14||Los Angeles Chargers||23||18.38|
|7||10/21||@Tampa Bay Buccaneers||29||19.13|
|9||11/04||Kansas City Chiefs||20||17.76|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||86||362||2||63||580||2||116|