News & Analysis

Browns’ Duke Johnson Jr. should draw significant interest on the trade block

A year removed from signing a three-year, $15.6M contract extension with the Cleveland Browns, Duke Johnson Jr. is at best an afterthought in a 2019 Freddie Kitchens-led offense with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt as the primary backs, forcing him onto the trade block.

Per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, Cleveland is “more than willing” to deal the 25-year-old Miami (Fla.) product for the right price. Johnson totaled just 87 touches this past season and earned just a 72.1 overall grade in the process.

Prior to his underutilized 2018 season, Johnson averaged 0.17 forced missed tackles per rush in his career, ranking tied for eighth among the 53 running backs with 250 rushes from 2015-17. And his ability to make people miss and run efficiently on the ground isn’t even the best part of his game.

Johnson’s career receiving grade (90.9) ranks fifth among the 44 running backs with at least 100 targets dating back to 2015. He also ranks second in forced missed tackles per reception (0.338), seventh in yards per route run (1.73) and fourth in percentage of receptions resulting in a first down or touchdown (44.0%) on the list.

At 5-foot-9, 210 pounds, Johnson isn’t the primary back of yesteryear that wore defenses down to the tune of 30 carries and 17 points a game. He’s part of the next evolution of high-volume backs best utilized in target-heavy roles like Chicago Bears’ Tarik Cohen and New England Patriots’ James White.

The five highest-ranked running backs in PFF’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement) metric from a year ago – Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley, Tarik Cohen and James White – all had 70 or more receptions in 2018. Johnson has some catching up to do in order to join the aforementioned backs in terms of value, but he’s capable, if properly utilized in a pass-heavy scheme, of such heights in 2019 and beyond.

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