by Zavier Gussett
After the Lions announced they were placing second year running back Kerryon Johnson on Injured Reserve leaving him out until at least week 16, many fantasy outlooks had the former wide receiver at Maryland, Ty Johnson as a major sleeper for the rest of the fantasy football season expecting him to fill the Lions starting runningback void. Yet even after taking over the main role this week, a lot of fantasy owners aren’t sure whether he can produce points for them after he posted just 4.8 PPR points Sunday against the Giants.
First, let’s look at Johnson’s numbers in his best game this season. In the same game that Kerryon Johnson was injured, Ty Johnson put up his season-high (yes, really) 9.7 PPR points in a 42-30 loss to the Vikings in which the Lions were forced to pass the ball a season-high 45 times, contributing to Johnson’s 4 targets all caught out of the backfield. In his first start in week nine against a Giants defense ranked 20th against runningbacks in fantasy, he finished the game with 7 carries for 25 yards, and one reception on 4 targets for 13 yards, but he was ultimately out-rushed AND out-received by other running backs in Detroit’s backfield as Tra Carson finished with 12 carries for 34 rushing yards, and J.D. McKissic finished with 3 receptions off of 3 targets out of the backfield.
Johnson hasn’t shown to be a consistent back this year and that likely won’t change even after Kerryon Johnson’s injury, as snap-counts from week 8 also show that the Lions split their three backs fairly even. Despite the Lions starting their first drive with backup Tra Carson, Ty Johnson did lead the backfield in snap-count, though only being on the field for 40% of the Lions’ offensive snaps, with Tra Carson not far behind with 30%, and even 3rd stringer McKissic managed to be on the field for 25% of the Lions’ plays. Even after just one game, it looks like offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will be going by a runningback-by-committee approach despite him primarily using one back with his previous teams.
As talented as Ty Johnson has shown to be at times, and given offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s one-back heavy scheme, there is some reasoning to believe Ty Johnson could eventually become a weekly flex play for your fantasy team. So if you have bench space to stash Johnson away in the case that the Lions go away from a committee back approach once Johnson settles in as the main guy later down the road, Johnson could end up starting for you for the last few weeks of your league’s fantasy season. Although reality is that he is a former wide receiver and a rookie on a team that will be fighting to make a wildcard spot, so Ty Johnson doesn’t look like someone to bet on helping your lineup this season.