Devon Johnson primed for fantasy goal-line work

Leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, each day NFL Fantasy will profile a prospect who could make a splash in fantasy next season. Today's subject is former Marshall running back Devon Johnson.

Devon "Rockhead" Johnson is a bruising running back out of Marshall. In 20 games over the last two seasons, Johnson piled up 2,360 rush yards on 300 attempts and scored 25 total touchdowns. Unfortunately, his senior campaign was cut short due to a back injury. He was unable to participate in the combine because of the lingering injury, which is something NFL teams will likely consider during the draft. He did perform during Marshall's pro day in early March, albeit with unremarkable results. But hey, we're here to talk fantasy, right? So, can this big, punishing prospect bring value to your fantasy squad in 2016?


     » Punishing runner, not afraid to plow through defenders
     » Difficult to tackle
     » Deceptive second-level speed for his size
     » Strong stiff arm

The first thing you'll notice about Johnson is his size and thick legs. As a heavier back, he is not afraid to bulldoze straight through defenders, which he tends to do often. His powerful running style punishes would-be tacklers as they attempt to bring him down. He's a great short-yardage back and his size also helps his pass-blocking ability. In addition, he has deceptive speed when he gets to the second level, like a LeGarrette Blount type. And once his legs get churning, man get out of his way. Johnson started his college career as a linebacker and backup tight end which gives him a bit of versatility and a better shot at locking up a spot on an NFL roster. Some scouts project that Johnson is more likely to find a role as a fullback or H-back rather than a traditional running back which would obviously not be good for his fantasy potential.


     » Lacks lateral quickness
     » Ball security
     » Health concerns

Johnson is not a shifty or elusive running back, but he makes up for his lack of lateral quickness with his toughness. Johnson's role would likely be limited to early down and short-yardage work and while that in itself is not necessarily a weakness, it does limit his potential as a fantasy option. He also fumbled five times over his last 20 games which is a cause for concern when it comes to ball security. As mentioned earlier, his lingering injury issues are definitely a red flag. He has dealt with back and shoulder injuries which have led to more than a few missed games, so Johnson's durability could be an issue, especially when you factor in his violent running style.

Ideal NFL fantasy fits

     » Philadelphia Eagles
     » Chicago Bears
     » Cleveland Browns

The Eagles shipped DeMarco Murray out to Tennessee leaving the speedy Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles to carry their backfield. Philly could use a big bruiser like Johnson to provide some balance to the rushing attack. The Bears said goodbye to Matt Forte this offseason, leaving second-year runner Jeremy Langford as the lead back in Chicago. The team will likely be looking for some depth in the draft and could opt for a power back like Johnson to use in a change of pace role behind Langford. The Browns are set with speedy pass-catching back in Duke Johnson, but Isaiah Crowell may be on a short leash in Cleveland. That could open up an opportunity for Devon Johnson to take advantage to see some work near the end zone.

Early fantasy draft projection

In terms of fantasy value, Devon Johnson projects as a low-volume, short-yardage back, if not merely a blocker. That means he won't have a lot value for fantasy owners come draft season in August. And while he shouldn't be completely overlooked in fantasy drafts, it's difficult to see him being selected as anything more than a late-round pick when it is time to take chances on fliers and handcuff-type backs.

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-- Follow Matt on Twitter @MattFranchise

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