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Fantasy: Is RB David Johnson Worth a Top 10 Pick?

July 4, 2016 • Ben Heck • Arizona Cardinals, Fantasy, Front Page, NFC West

As a rookie in 2015, Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson ran for 581 yards and eight touchdowns on just 125 attempts (4.6 YPC), while also reeling in another 457 yards and four touchdowns on 36 catches.

He began the season at the bottom of a crowded RB depth chart in Arizona, but with injuries to Chris Johnson (broken leg in Week 12) and Andre Ellington (knee) the rookie got to see enough of the field to show off his potential.

With Chris Johnson (814 yards, 3 TD) out for the late-season stretch, the other Johnson became a late-season fantasy stud. Johnson, 24, managed to rack up 442 rushing yards and five total touchdowns in Arizona’s last five regular-season games. This included an 187-yard/3 TD performance in a Week 14 victory over Philadelphia.

With Chris Johnson turning 31 soon, and David Johnson’s impressive late-2015 stretch, the second-year RB is poised to be sitting No. 1 on the Cardinals’ depth chart heading into the 2016 season.

Given that the workload will be there for him, Johnson is bound to break 200-250 carries this season. If he can duplicate his yards per carry from a season ago, and do so with over 250 carries, Johnson has the potential to break the 1,200-yard barrier in his second season.

He also happened to be a touchdown machine as a rookie, both on the ground and through the air. There were only seven other players who ran for eight or more touchdowns last season, and none of them did so with just 125 carries. Cam Newton did, however, run for 10 touchdowns on just 132 carries. But he’s a touchdown machine, too. So that’s fitting.

My point here is, even if Johnson manages just 1,200 yards as the feature back in Arizona, he could still put up double-digit touchdowns and is a huge threat in passing situations as well. We could see a 1,200 yard rushing season from him, but he’d also put up 500+ yards and five or six touchdowns in the passing game on top of that.

With it being such a pass-happy league these days, a handful of receivers will be taken in the top 10 (Brown, Beckham, Jones, Hopkins), and there are a number of running backs that are clearly ahead of Johnson as well (Gurley, Bell, Peterson). But even if you throw in top-tier TE Rob Gronkowski, that still leaves two slots open in the top 10. Could Johnson’s dual-threat ability at the RB position be enough to put him in the top 10?

Why yes, of course.

No quarterbacks should be selected with the top 10 picks, unless you have an owner who’s willing to spend high on Cam Newton or Aaron Rodgers. But if you’re smart, you’d wait until the second or third round to snag a top-tier QB and instead load up on backs and receivers early on. And with Johnson being a young No. 1 back with great ability in the passing game, I’d take him with a top 10 pick without hesitation.

Just in case you needed a refresher:

Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

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