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Fantasy Football ADP – Draft Diontae Johnson or Odell Beckham Jr.?

NFL Fantasy



(All summer, Adam Pfeifer will be putting the tightest fantasy football picks under the microscope in our ADP Decisions series.)

Our ADP series continues with a matchup between two AFC North wide receivers. Diontae Johnson appears to be on the rise while Odell Beckham has been a major disappointment since joining the Cleveland Browns. And while most of these debates have been close, I don’t want to sugar coat anything here — this one isn’t all that close for me.

Let’s get after it.

The case for Diontae Johnson

The production was great but Johnson had a bit of a strange season in 2020. He dealt with multiple injuries and struggled with efficiency, but the overall numbers were good, as he caught 88 passes for 923 yards and seven touchdowns. In an offense with three very good receivers, Johnson was the clear top target for Ben Roethlisberger, averaging 9.6 per game. However, there were three games where Johnson didn’t play the majority of the snaps — Week 3 (24%), Week 5 (8%) and Week 14 (49%). In the 12 games he played in full, Johnson saw double-digit targets 10 times, while averaging just over 11 targets per game in those outings. And in those 12 full games, Johnson was also a top-10 wide receiver in all of fantasy football, averaging 6.9 receptions, 73.7 receiving yards and 17.8 PPR points per game. Johnson was clearly the top option from this passing game, as he was targeted on around 27% of his routes, one of the five-highest rates in football. Meanwhile, per FTN’s advanced receiving stats, his 112 first-read targets were second to only Allen Robinson

Roethlisberger often locked onto Johnson, ranking fourth among all quarterbacks with at least 150 attempts in first read percentage (66%). That means 66% of his passes were thrown on the first read, which is a massive number. So why was Johnson targeted at such a high rate? Well, for starters, the Steelers offensive line could not pass-protect at all last year, forcing Roethlisberger to get rid of the ball quickly. He averaged 2.17 seconds to throw, easily the fastest mark in the league, as this Pittsburgh offense was predicated off quick-hitting passes. As a result, Johnson averaged just 6.42 yards per target, sixth lowest among all wide receivers with at least 50 targets this past season. Meanwhile, his 77 short targets (0-9 yards) were the seventh most among all wide receivers. Entering the 2021 campaign, not much has changed in Pittsburgh. The offensive line is arguably worse than it was last year, which means the Steelers passing game will likely look very familiar. If that is the case, Johnson should once again see plenty of targets, though the yardage could be underwhelming. His 1.76 yards per route run was just 45th among qualified wide receivers last year, while his 19 deep targets ranked 27th in the league.