It seemed that the Cardinals had a potential franchise running back on their team in Andre Ellington, but his 2014 performance proved otherwise.
In 2013, Ellington averaged 5.5 yards per carry, but in 2014 on 201 rushes he only averaged 3.3 yards per carry. Almost a full two yard per carry dip.
While it’s worth mentioning that Ellington dealt with a foot injury, and the Cardinals quarterback situation wasn’t doing him any favors. After Carson Palmer went down the passing game could do anything with Ryan Lindley or Logan Thomas.
Well, now the Cardinals selected David Johnson in the third round of the NFL Draft, and he profiles as the workhorse back that Ellington hasn’t been.
Standing at 6’1, 229 pounds, Johnson ran for 4862 yards with 49 touchdowns, and 5.4 yards per carry on 866 career carries. Johnson is a big back with 4.5 speed, and he did play against inferior competition at Northern Iowa, but the talent is clearly evident.
So, what could Johnson do for fantasy owners in 2015. This offseason it really seems like the Cardinals have been wanting to move on from Ellington. According to Josh Weinfuss, the Cardinals have been looking for a bigger, faster back and they got one in Johnson.
Despite being four inches taller and 30 pounds heavier, Johnson is just as fast as the much smaller Ellington.
Size and speed are great, but how good of a runner is Johnson?
“While he plays fast enough, Johnson lacks breakaway speed and can be caught from behind. He doesn’t have much shake to his run style and won’t fool defenders or create in tight spaces. Johnson is an upright runner with some lower body stiffness, limiting his elusiveness against next level players. He projects as a bigger version of Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Charles Sims, who is at his best torching linebackers as a pass-catcher, working the middle of the field.”
Despite his great size and speed, Johnson plays stiff and lacks elusiveness. Interestingly enough, according to Pro Football Focus, Ellington was actually the least elusive running back in the NFL, so the Cardinals aren’t losing anything.
It doesn’t seem like it is going to take much for Johnson to overtake Ellington because Bruce Arians has been open about his desire for a bigger running back.
On paper, the Cardinals have a powerful offensive line that should open up big lanes for Johnson. Jared Veldheer, Jonathan Cooper, Mike Iupati, and the newly drafted D.J. Humphries should do wonders for the Arizona running game.
The big question on Johnson is whether or not he is going to be handed the reigns right away. I think he will be. Arians wanted an upgrade at running back, and considering how horrible Ellington was in 2014, Johnson should get every shot at taking the job.
Considering the offensive line, and if Carson Palmer can stay healthy, Johnson could fine himself being drafted as a top 25 running back as fantasy drafts get closer. As long as he can fend off Ellington his outlook should be improving.
Keep an eye on Johnson as the offseason carries on, but be ready to pounce on him once your draft date arrives.