Let me start by saying how much I love Stevie Johnson.
He plays hurt, rallies his younger teammates, produces on the field, and provides a swagger to a franchise that has been without a personality for far too long.
Stevie Johnson’s statistics speak for themselves, with over 1,000 receiving yards in each of the past three seasons. And don’t think that is goes unnoticed that Stevie had a below-average QB and a below-average head coach in place each of these seasons.
But when it comes to fantasy our beloved #13 gets caught up in league- wide receiver depth. If you visit ESPN’s fantasy rankings you will see that they have Johnson ranked #33, making him a borderline starter in standard leagues that have 10-12 teams and three starting receivers each week. Directly in front of Johnson you will find Anquan Boldin, DeSean Jackson, and Tavon Austin (really?!?). Behind him are Miles Austin, Danario Alexander, and T.Y. Hilton. Personally I think they have Stevie Johnson underrated, but not by too much.
In relation to the ESPN Rankings, I like Johnson over guys like Cecil Shorts (#26), Antonio Brown (#24), and Pierre Garcon (#25). He has been far more consistent and produced at a much higher level. I can’t argue that he should be above James Jones (#27), Greg Jennings (#29), or Dwayne Bowe (#23) – three guys that have produced in the past. Let’s just call it a toss-up for Johnson once you get past the top 20 receiver rankings. I consider Stevie a bona fide #3 starter in standard 10 team leagues, and a borderline #2 in 12 team formats.
Stevie Johnson’s Fantasy Positives
The Numbers – Last season Johnson was a top 20 performer in the league for yards (18th), receptions (18th), and 1st downs (18th). This included running backs and tight ends as well, making his performance that much more impressive amongst his peers. He finished tied for 34th in TD’s with 6, and was 23rd in yards after the catch. He has produced over these past three seasons, and there is nothing to say that a season of 80 catches, 1,000 yards, and 6-8 TD’s shouldn’t happen again. The numbers don’t lie when it comes to Johnson – he has been incredibly consistent over the past three seasons – so any thoughts of him being a fluke can be put to rest.
Stevie Johnson’s Fantasy Negatives
The QB – Because the Bills quarterback situation is new this season, it looks like the projections for Stevie are a bit lower than they should be. Despite Ryan Fitzpatrick’s deficiencies, his chemistry with Johnson was a positive, and it showed over the past three seasons. Can Kevin Kolb or EJ Manuel develop that same chemistry? Maybe, but it is too early to tell. Quarterback play directly affects each receiver’s productivity, just ask Eric Decker (#22) and Demaryius Thomas (#6) how they felt after Peyton Manning replaced Tim Tebow. The recent change at QB was sure to have an effect on Johnson’s preseason rankings.
With so many productive wide receivers in the league, no one wants to pick a wide receiver too early this year (with one exception in Calvin Johnson). One could argue that the top 5 wide receivers are “studs” – Johnson, AJ Green, Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, and Brandon Marshall. After that there are plenty of wide receivers that are productive in fantasy leagues.
When looking at Johnson’s fantasy status, he gets caught in this group being mentioned above. Most experts have his average draft position in the 8th-10th round – again as a #3 receiver. In my own leagues I look to target my third receiver in the 8th or 9th round. With that being said, I have no problem with “reaching” for Johnson in the 7th round. I use that term loosely, because I don’t see much separation in that next tier of receivers. If you want Stevie on your team, but lists have him behind available guys like Greg Jennings, Anquan Boldin, and Antonio Brown, go ahead and take him.
Personally, I will likely target Stevie as a #2 receiver this year with a 7th round pick, while selecting my #3 receiver in the following round.