Duke Johnson holds fantasy deep sleeper appeal

Leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, each day NFL Fantasy will profile a prospect who could make a splash in fantasy next season. Today's subject is former Miami (Fla.) running back Duke Johnson.

With the list of outstanding running backs who have plied their trade at the University of Miami, it says something when you're the school's all-time leading rusher. That's the case for Duke Johnson, who compiled more than 3,500 rushing yards for "The U." But what does that mean for Johnson's prospects as an NFL and fantasy football star? I dug in to find out.

Strengths

» Runs hard; feet always moving
» Quickness to get to the edge
» Tough to bring down
» Decent pass-catcher

The first thing you notice about Duke Johnson is that he is always in motion with the ball in his hands. His steps are generally short and choppy, but his feet never stop which makes him a shifty, hard-to-tackle running back.

While Johnson isn't a traditional speed burner -- he ran a lackluster 4.54-second 40-yard dash -- his quickness isn't to be underrated. Most of Johnson's big plays came on runs that he bounced to the outside. His ability to get to the edge combined with a decent stiff-arm allowed him to be a productive rusher. And speaking of hands ... Johnson wasn't too bad catching the ball out of the backfield.

Weaknesses

» Struggles as an inside runner
» Ball security issues in traffic
» Injury problems in college career
» Below average in pass protection

For all of the excitement that Johnson provided on his edge runs, his work between the tackles was underwhelming. In most cases, he picked up the yards that were blocked but little else. At the next level, Johnson projects to be more of a change-of-pace back rather than a short-yardage or power option. His work between the tackles becomes more worrisome when you notice Johnson's troubles with ball security in traffic. It was part of what led to six fumbles in two seasons.

Another obstacle to Johnson being a three-down back in the NFL are his struggles in pass protection. More often than not, he eschewed properly, squaring up attacking pass-rushers in favor of cut blocks. In order to be on the field for third downs or obvious passing situations, Johnson will need to improve greatly in that area.

Ideal NFL fantasy fits

Johnson could be a nice complement to Branden Oliver in the Chargers backfield. He might not be the level of pass-catcher that Danny Woodhead is, but he has the potential to be a better rusher. Dallas has a backfield full of question marks, beginning with Darren McFadden. Johnson wouldn't project as the team's starter, but could make a nice impact as part of a platoon behind arguably the NFL's best offensive line. In Detroit, the Theo Riddick Hype Train could derail Johnson's chance to see significant time. But if Riddick falters in training camp, there could be an opening.

Early fantasy draft projection

As a pass-catching scatback in the right offense, Duke Johnson could have sleeper potential in 2015. If you're considering the former Hurricane in any sort of standard re-drafts, you'd be better served to wait until the late rounds. But for fantasy enthusiasts in dynasty leagues, Johnson could potentially have some mid-round appeal.

-- Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

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