Johnson had an up and down 2020, but as the Steelers No. 1 receiver, he still has the most upside of the group heading into 2021. Last season he averaged almost ten targets per game, ranking fifth for all wide receivers. The targets could fall a bit this season, but his status as the No. 1 target should remain.
To commemorate the 2021 NFL season, we’ll be counting down the 75 best fantasy football players in the league. Picking a Top 75 is subjective, especially when you are projecting a whole season of accumulated fantasy points, but that’s part of the fun. We’ll assume what I see as an average league, which is 12 teams, .5 PPR scoring and a roster of 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, & 1RB/WR/TE. Kickers and defenses need not apply.
Change is the nature of the NFL beast, so trades and injuries will likely impact this list as we go along, but hey, this isn’t rocket science. We’re here to have a little fun and build up some much needed anticipation for a league cast in the shadow by baseball, soccer, hockey, etc. Sarcasm aside, the NFL is addictive and we’re here to give your daily fix as we close in on the season.
The official and often updated fantasy football drafting tiers can be found here.
No. 58, Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers, WR
Johnson caught 88-of-144 targets for 924 yards and seven touchdowns last season. That led the team in targets and yards. Unfortunately, Johnson’s 2020 will likely be remembered for drops. At one point he was benched for a quarter after back-to-back drops. The question is, will drops continue to be a problem in 2021?
Competition for touches
Johnson has some good competition for targets with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool both getting a good chunk of looks per game. And now with rookie running back Najee Harris in the fold, we will likely see a decrease in total pass attempts. But we should also see efficiency go up with pressure taken off the passing game.
Team offensive expectations
The Steelers were extremely lopsided toward the pass last season. Teams knew that Ben Roethlisberger was having trouble with the deep ball and getting passes to the sidelines. They also knew the Steelers running game wasn’t effective, so they could concentrate on jumping short routes and not dedicate extra personnel to stopping the run. The addition of Harris should help, while the hope is that Roethlisberger’s arm will have somewhat of a bounce back after more time away from his elbow surgery.
What’s his upside?
Johnson’s upside is as a strong No. 1 receiver in this league. Drops were a problem to be sure in 2020, but we’ve seen young players overcome drops more often than not. A more efficient offense coupled with fewer drops could push Johnson into a Top 20 fantasy receiver without much trouble and his upside could be Top 10.
What’s his downside?
If drops continue to plague Johnson, while Roethlisberger’s arm continues to deteriorate, the offense would take a hit while Claypool and Smith-Schuster could start seeing more work. The downside of the Steelers offense is real, so any receiver from Pittsburgh is risky, but Johnson is easily my favorite of the group to get close to his upside.
90 receptions, 135 targets, 1100 yards, 7 touchdowns