Updated: Aug 23
by Cesar Fuentes (@_cesar_fuentes)
There's only one explanation for Diontae Johnson's 2022 season. Last season was a down year.
After surpassing 100 receptions in 2021, Johnson saw a slump in 2022, finishing with just 86 catches. This was his worst season since his rookie year. In his defense though, the entire offense took a step back while Kenny Pickett learned how to play quarterback in the NFL.
Despite ranking 13th in target percentage, 10th in red zone targets, and WR20 in expected fantasy points per game, Johnson finished the season with zero touchdowns as the WR39 in fantasy points per game.
DJ is a great option in PPR leagues, despite finishing 28th in PPR leagues last season, and 46th in standard! That's hard to believe, but not scoring touchdowns was his problem.
He had 86 receptions for 882 receiving yards in 2022, but his average is still 94 receptions on 153 targets over the past three years. Those are top 10 totals among all wide receivers. Johnson is clearly the best option in Pittsburgh's passing game. Despite all the hype around guys like Pat Freiermuth and George Pickens, I expect Johnson to be Pickett's top option in 2023. His ability to separate is unprecedented, and a young quarterback wants to throw to a guy who can keep him clean.
He became the first player in NFL history with at least 85 catches and no touchdowns. That won't happen again, and that's a big bounce for Johnson. We can't forget he was fantasy football's overall WR8 in 2021 and had another top 24 finish in 2020
As we all know, in fantasy football, volume is king, and Johnson has it. There are only four players with more targets than Johnson since 2019: Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.
Considering the volume he receives, if we were to add just four touchdowns to his fantasy total, he would have been the WR25 last year. It's an absolute steal that he's currently WR37 in ADP. Despite a horrible, career low season in 2022, he still finished just two places out of WR37, and I expect him to get at least 120 targets in 2023.
He can certainly finish as a top 24 option and will be comfortably in the top 36, which already makes him a value relative to his ADP. So there's no risk in taking Johnson -- he's being drafted low enough that he won't hurt his team if he has another bad season, but he would be invaluable if he bounces back.
Because Johnson is objective dependent, his value changes depending on his league format. He has much more value in the PPR and mid-PPR leagues, as he is consistently among the league leaders in receptions. If you happen to be in one of these leagues, don't sleep on Johnson. It could cost you the league title.