Should Fantasy Owners Be Worried About Andre Johnson?

Andre Johnson's big-play ability has been on the decline in 2014. Can he rebound?

As a huge fan of hip hop, I vividly remember when Dr. Dre's Dre Day came out, and I still get excited when I hear the song. I like to use the phrase "Dre Day" to describe the fantasy football performances of Andre Johnson, who consistently has been one of the NFL's elite wide receivers in spite of being north of 30 years old. However, this season you have to wonder if Dre's best fantasy days are a thing of the past.

What has made Johnson such an elite wide receiver in the past is his ability to make plays without being touchdown dependent. In fact, Johnson has never exceeded the nine touchdown total in a season, which he accomplished in 2009. With that said, even with very poor quarterback play, Johnson has been elite in terms of receptions and receiving yards, catching over 100 balls five times and notching over 1,400 receiving yards in a season four times.

Is he slowing down this year, or will Andre Johnson be just fine?

Johnson Through Four Weeks

When a player holds out in the preseason, they typically start slow in the regular season. With a new quarterback at the helm in Ryan Fitzpatrick, Johnson would have stood to benefit from being at OTAs and other mini-camps, as well as at Texans training camp when it started. While most fantasy owners didn't worry about Johnson once he got to camp because he's a pro's pro, Johnson did have a nagging hamstring injury in camp, which further impacted his time to build chemistry with his new quarterback.

Let's take a look at how Johnson and teammate DeAndre Hopkins have produced using our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics through four games in 2014. The rankings are amongst the 59 players with 20 or more targets this season.

PlayerTargetsReception NEPTarget NEPRec. NEP per TargetSuccess Rate
Johnson34 (13th)14.83 (40th)2.98 (44th)0.44 (51st)86.4% (24th)
Hopkins25 (43rd)22.98 (16th)12.25 (17th)0.92 (7th)83.3% (35th)

From the table, you can see that, while Johnson is still getting tons of looks from his quarterback, Hopkins is making the most of his opportunities and scoring more touchdowns, which results in a more favorable Reception Net Expected Points total. While Johnson has always received a lot of volume, his Target NEP this year is low among wide receivers with 20 or more targets, ranking 51st, which shows that he and Fitzpatrick seem to need to work on their chemistry. This was evident in the team's lone loss to the New York Giants, where Johnson was targeted 11 times, but finished with a paltry four catches for 24 yards.

Let's look a little further at Johnson versus Hopkins, which sounds like a big-ticket boxing match. Here are their numbers in 2014 in terms of snap counts and number of red zone targets:

PlayerReceptionsYardsTouchdownsOffensive SnapsRed Zone Targets

Johnson is still getting looks in the red zone, and his snap counts are strong compared to Hopkins, a relatively good sign, especially compared to our advanced metrics.

Johnson's Outlook for the Rest of 2014

By now, you should know the drill with Johnson. You didn't draft him high with expectations of double-digit touchdowns. You wanted the volume and the yardage, and while Johnson hasn't eclipsed the 100-yard mark yet in a single week, he's been known to get hot in game stretches in the past. For instance, he had all five of his touchdowns in a two-game stretch in 2013, where he totaled 263 receiving yards on 14 receptions. While the getting hot in stretches may make him seem more like T.Y. Hilton than Calvin Johnson, Johnson still has a nice weekly floor.

The volume is there thus far, with Johnson averaging 8.5 targets a game. And that roughly backs his historical high number of targets. Assuming his ankle checks out, still count on Johnson to still be effective in PPR leagues. On good Dre days, Johnson will put up double-digit catches and triple-digit yardage, and may even get in the end zone. Those are the dominant performances and upside that win you games, especially if Johnson isn't your number-one wide receiver.

In standard leagues, our numbers think Andre Johnson will be just the 30th-best wide receiver from here on out, but only 15 points away from the number 15 spot. In PPR ones, things are still a little different, as he should be able to catch at least 60 more passes this year.