Fantasy Football Player Profile 2024: Carolina Panthers WR Diontae Johnson

2NHC88H CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 18: Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) during an NFL football game between the Pittsburg Steelers and the Carolina Panthers on December 18, 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

Diontae Johnson could be a leader in targets: Johnson is back to his usual X receiver role on a team with minimal competition for targets and a quarterback who looks at his top read often.

Johnson lacks elite upside: Johnson can consistently perform like a fantasy starter, but he won't finish among the top-five wide receivers even if he leads the league in targets.

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

The player profile series gives the most in-depth view of a player possible using the best data points at PFF’s disposal to look at how good the player has performed, what competition the player has for touches, and how other teammates and coaches will impact each player's performance.

Last updated: 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, July 9

Player performance

Johnson has been a good but not great wide receiver throughout his career with plenty of volume. All of his per-game metrics have been great while all of his per-route metrics have been good. There is no specific situation where he’s excelled, but he’s ranked well in almost every situation.

He’s consistently graded at least 68.0 or better in receiving dating back to his rookie year of 2019, but he’s never graded above 80.0. His raw numbers weren’t quiet as good in 2023 as usual, but that was largely due to his injury. He graded out better than ever at a time where wide receivers should be at their peak.

Competition for touches

Throughout Johnson’s time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he faced some competition for targets but not more than most receivers. He shared targets with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool and George Pickens throughout his five years. That will be the same story with the Carolina Panthers

Terrace Marshall Jr. and Jonathan Mingo have been disappointments since being drafted, although it’s not too late for their careers to turn around. Adam Thielen was on fire to start last season, but he averaged 43.3 yards per game since Week 9 with no touchdowns. Thielen will be 34 years old before the season is over. The Panthers spent a first round pick on Xavier Legette this season, which will probably be Johnson’s primary competition for targets.

Johnson had been the Steelers' X receiver and a top-30 fantasy asset from 2020-2022, including the overall WR8 in 2021. His fantasy production declined in 2022 without any touchdowns. His new role leads to more touchdowns and more yards per reception but fewer targets and not any better fantasy production as the Z. Johnson was told he would be the X receiver. This likely puts Legette at the Z and and Thielen in the slot. The move back to X will ideally lead Johnson back to having similar fantasy production as earlier in his career.

Impact of teammates

New head coach Dave Canales’ X receiver has finished among the top-16 fantasy wide receivers each of the last four seasons, which is a very positive sign for Johnson. He’s also passed more than expected and is used to giving his wide receivers a high target share. This should continue in Carolina, as the Panthers don’t have much receiving depth at tight end.

By far the biggest question for Johnson is how well Bryce Young can play in his second year. On the bright side, he targeted wide receivers more than most quarterbacks, and he targeted his first read more than most quarterbacks as a rookie, which further points to Johnson being among the league leaders in targets. Young also hasn’t been great at deep passes and didn’t pass deep often, and Johnson isn’t as much of a deep target, which is another plus.

Young was sacked 62 times last season which was tied for sixth-most for a quarterback in his career, which needs to change. His accuracy on passes also needs to improve.

Bottom line

Johnson was able to finish as WR28 in 2022 while tied for sixth in targets with Kenny Pickett in his rookie season. Everything indicates we could be in store for a similar season this year if Young can’t improve. If Young can improve, we could see a season like 2021.

  • Statistics for the tables and charts were generally chosen based on their ability to predict future fantasy performance on either per game or per opportunity basis, or chosen for their ability to describe the player relative to other players at the same position.
  • Opportunities for this purpose are defined by passing dropbacks, rushing attempts and receiving routes run.
  • Numbers are either by season or based on the last three years. For rookies, only college numbers are included. For non-rookies, only NFL numbers are included, even if they played in college in the last three years.
  • Because college competition is relatively easier than NFL competition, it can be expected that most rookies will see a decline in their numbers compared to their historic numbers.
  • For all of the tables in this article, colors range from blue (good or high) to red (bad or low).
  • All percentiles or colors compare the given player to other players with a high sample of opportunities. Generally, it’s one-third of the possible opportunities given the sample. If the player in question doesn’t have enough opportunities, they are still compared, even though a player could look good or bad on that small sample size which might not be as predictive.
  • Information on running back utilization classifications and importance can be found here, wide receiver here and tight end here

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