The Wrong Read – Episode 21: Is Duke Johnson the Next Le’Veon Bell?

Welcome to the 21st installment of the “The Wrong Read,” an article series that reflects on recent podcast episodes, pushing the ideas discussed on the podcasts to their logical conclusions and offering some further thoughts on the topics broached by the guests and hosts. A couple recent guests on the RotoViz Mailbag have defended Amari Cooper, echoing my mid-season analysis that it’s far too early to write him off. My title is not a typo. I did mean to write Duke Johnson, not David Johnson. The former was the subject of a discussion on the latest episode of the Dynasty Tradecast. It was suggested on that program that Johnson is being undervalued. At the time the show was recorded, the guys didn’t know that Todd Haley was going to be the Browns’ new offensive coordinator. This is important because of Haley’s history of running back usage. Haley of course has coached Le’Veon Bell through four elite RB seasons, and a fifth that was on pace to be elite if it hadn’t been shortened by injury. Could Johnson occupy Bell’s role in Haley’s new Cleveland offense?

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By Blair Andrews | @AmItheRealBlair | Archive

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  1. As good as Charles is, I wonder if his opportunities were kept a bit lower than Bell due to his size. If that is the case, then Duke's upper limit for touches is probably Charles. Still, that's significantly more than he has gotten to date so it could still be an opportunity to get a player at below his potential worth.

  2. bmoff says:

    My biggest fear, as a Duke faithful, is that Cleveland will let Crowell walk and draft Barkley with either their 1st (improbable) or 4th (odds are better) pick in the draft. If they draft Barkley, the best case scenario for Duke at that point is even less than what he got with Crowell taking most of the rushing reps. If they haven't moved him into the slot by now, will they ever??

  3. That's definitely possible. Even then, we're talking about maybe 15 touches per game, much of that in the passing game. Charles was routinely one of the top two or three backs in the league when healthy. I'm not sure Johnson would be as efficient as Charles was with the increased opportunity, but as you say, there's still a pretty large gap between his current value and his upside if he gets those touches. Best case scenario is the Browns don't draft an early RB, Crowell leaves, and Haley uses Johnson about the way he did Bell. That's probably not the most likely thing to happen, but it's a distinct possibility.

  4. Duke was already playing mostly out of the slot in a few games last year. And he was so much better and more consistent in that role than a lot of the WRs who they put there (Louis, Higgins, etc). So even if they draft Barkley, Johnson could still have a role. He would lose more carries though--and basically see his position change to WR. I'm not sure that's a good thing.

    Now, I'm dead-set against NFL teams drafting RBs with early picks. But if the Browns do draft Barkley, does he turn into Bell, only faster? Think about Bell's size and workload, then add in Charles' speed (there's video of Barkley running a hand-timed 4.33). He's the perfect Todd Haley back. As a football fan I'd be opposed to the pick. As a fantasy owner I'm excited to see what a Haley-Barkley pairing could become.

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