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What to do with Diontae Johnson, James Washington in Week 9 fantasy football

Diontae Johnson has clearly been a favorite target of Mason Rudolph in 2019. Is that enough of a reason to trust him against the Colts?

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson runs after a catch as Cincinnati Bengals strong safety Shawn Williams chases during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Narratives. The lifeblood of sports. For as much as I like to think of myself as an analytical mind, we all have our moments of weakness when it comes to a random revenge game or historic coincidence. I’m far from perfect. However, while narratives are in no way rare, we did have a truly unique set of circumstances unfold in Pittsburgh this season when Mason Rudolph was pressed into action in place of the injured Ben Roethlisberger. Would Rudolph rekindle his connection with college teammate James Washington? Or would he possibly find comfort in fellow third-round pick Diontae Johnson? I mean, if we’re talking narratives, you knew one of the two would have to be good, as the Steelers always hit on their Day 2 wide receivers.

Anyway, it now seems that Rudolph’s preference is pretty clear. In the four games he’s been healthy enough to start, its Johnson that’s tied with JuJu Smith-Schuster for the team lead in targets with 27. It’s Johnson whose averaged 15.2 DKFP and caught a touchdown in three of the four contests with Rudolph under center. It’s Johnson that possesses a route tree that seems to intertwine with Rudolph’s skill set. Where Washington’s aDOT is a team-high 17.0 yards, Johnson’s is a more bland 9.5 yards. Still, while that might seem like a reason to favor Washington’s ceiling, Rudolph is only averaging 3.0 air yards per attempt on his completed passes. Running deep is great for a wideout’s upside, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot if your quarterback can’t get you the football.

Fantasy Football Analysis, Pittsburgh Steelers WRs Diontae Johnson and James Washington

This matchup keeps getting more and more enticing as we get deeper into the week. Indianapolis has been sort of sneaky bad at defending the pass so far in 2019. They’ve surrendered the AFC’s second-highest completion rate (68.5%), they’ve allowed four 300-yard passers, and, going back to the beginning of Week 5, they’re conceding a whopping 10.2 yards per target to opposing wide receivers. With top corner Pierre Desir unable to practice all week with a hamstring issue, I’ll be looking at attack this secondary.

Start/Sit Recommendation

Start Johnson. Sit Washington.