News & Analysis

C.J. Anderson's arrival in Detroit hurts Kerryon Johnson's fantasy appeal

By Scott Barrett
Apr 2, 2019

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Dec 30, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams running back C.J. Anderson (35) celebrates after scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run against the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

(PFF Fantasy is reacting to all the offseason moves from a fantasy football perspective. Follow along here.)

The Detroit Lions have signed running back C.J. Anderson to a one-year deal, according to reports.

Anderson played well last year, ranking as our third-highest-graded running back (via the run) of 80 qualifiers. In two regular-season starts last year with the Rams, Anderson totaled 316 yards of offense on 47 touches. In the postseason, he out-touched Todd Gurley 49 to 34.

Still, it’s hard to expect much from Anderson, after drawing little interest in free agency in each of the past two seasons. He’ll likely reprise LeGarrette Blount’s role from last year. That means drawing around eight touches per game and handling the majority of the team’s goal-line carries. More than anything, this solidifies that Kerryon Johnson will not be used as the team’s bell-cow running back and is likely overvalued at current ADP (RB17).

We should have known this sort of move was coming. At the combine, GM Bob Quinn said he doesn’t view Johnson as a bell cow and that, “in this league, you need multiple running backs.” Head coach Matt Patricia later echoed these sentiments. The Lions also signed Malcolm Brown to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent last month before the Rams matched the offer.

Last season, Johnson averaged 5.4 yards per carry, second-best of all 46 running backs to see at least 100 carries. Blount, meanwhile, ranked last in both yards per carry (2.7) and PFF grade.

Through the first 11 weeks of last season (before his season-ending injury), Johnson averaged 11.8 carries and 3.7 targets per game to Blount’s 7.8 carries and 0.5 targets per game. Over that span, Johnson came close to doubling Blount’s touch total (150 to 83), while almost quadrupling his yardage (854 to 222).

You’d think this would have earned Johnson more work, but the Lions seemed intent on employing a committee backfield, with Theo Riddick also mixing in as the team’s primary passing-down back. That sort of usage is likely to continue again this year, meaning Johnson will again have to rely on hyper-efficiency to provide value at ADP. Anderson seems like a good bet to outproduce Blount (4.5 fantasy points per game before Johnson’s injury) due to better efficiency, but still isn’t going to be high on our fantasy radar. He’s just a high-end RB5 in my rankings.

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