Playing behind a lackluster offensive line and not getting enough touches are two ways a running back can stay under the radar. In Cleveland, Duke Johnson Jr was not only stuck behind a subpar line, but was forced to take a back seat to Isaiah Crowell. If the coaching staff deicdes to incorporate him more, the improved offensive line would give Johnson the opportunity to have a massive breakout season.
Johnson can do damage carrying the ball under his arm as well as in the passing game. He’s shown soft hands and excellent route running ability for a back, lining up out wide and coming out of the backfield. But what makes Johnson special is his vision and telephone booth agility.
Here’s an example of Johnson making something out of the nothing that was the 2016 Cleveland offensive line. This is just a five yard gain, but the play was only blocked for about a yard. Johnson displays excellent vision and patience, instinctually waiting for an opening and not running into a pile. This is the kind of play we often see Le’Veon Bell make that has everybody in awe.
On 73 carries behind a poor offensive line, Johnson managed 4.9 yards per carry. Unlike most players with good averages however, Johnson didn’t have a bunch of long runs to inflate his average. Johnson only had two runs of 20 or more yards in 2016, meaning that 4.9 average is a result of him consistently picking up very solid chunks of positive yardage.
The play above shows the rare stop and start ability and wiggle that Johnson brings to the table. Very few guys can change direction and make guys miss in crowded areas the way Duke Johnson can. If he gets more carries in 2017 behind what might be the league’s most improved offensive line, with his dual threat ability, we could easily see Johnson average over 100 scrimmage yards a game.
Browns fans should be excited and fantasy owners should take notice. If the coaching staff takes advantage of his immense talent, Duke Johnson Jr could be the NFL‘s top breakout player of 2017.