We used to talk about Andre Johnson piling up stats. Catches, yards and touchdowns were the only things that mattered regarding the Texans receiver, who was once considered the best in the NFL. But now Johnson is being discussed with different numbers – age and injuries.
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Fantasy owners are concerned that at 31 years old he's near the end of his career, especially since he's starting to look fragile. Going back to last year, Johnson has dealt with hamstring problems, which cost him nine games in 2011, offseason knee surgery and an injured groin in training camp. He even had to leave the third preseason game against New Orleans when he got the wind knocked out of him.
Johnson hasn't helped his Fantasy value this offseason by not being 100 percent healthy, but I'm not concerned. I'm expecting a big year for Johnson and the prediction here is he will remain a Top 3 Fantasy receiver.
Calvin Johnson is clearly the No. 1 Fantasy receiver, and Julio Jones has emerged as the No. 2 option. But Andre Johnson is a close third and he will rebound for a big year in 2012. He's ready to prove wrong all the naysayers who think he's done.
"It's fun. I laugh at it," Johnson told the media in Houston. "I don't feel old at all. … I'm ready to go at it again. I missed a lot of time (in 2011) and I feel like I have a lot to prove. I want to show people that I can still play at a high level. To just hear some of the things about me getting old and stuff like that, that's just like a challenge. Like I said, I laugh at it, and I'm excited about this upcoming season."
We're excited for Johnson as well and he could emerge with tremendous Fantasy value if he falls into Round 3 or later. I'm not afraid of him getting hurt even though he hasn't been able to play 16 games each of the past two years.
Last year, Johnson was limited to just seven games due to the hamstring problems. He also missed three games in 2010 and in May he had the arthroscopic surgery on his knee before hurting his groin.
I get the argument that his best days are behind him, but I'll take my chances with Johnson in most leagues with a Round 2 pick. Prior to getting hurt last year, Johnson had 21 catches for 316 yards and two touchdowns in his first three games (an average of 14 Fantasy points a week in standard leagues). He also had 13 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown in two playoff games, both with T.J. Yates at quarterback. And in 2010 when he missed three games he still finished with 86 catches, 1,216 catches and eight touchdowns.
Matt Schaub (foot) will return this season, which will help Johnson. He also has no real threat for targets, and Johnson has averaged at least 10 targets a game from 2006-10. Sure, the Texans are a run-first team with Arian Foster and Ben Tate, but Johnson had 162 Fantasy points (12.5 points a week) in 2010 during Foster's breakout season.
Fear Johnson if you want because of his injury history, but just keep in mind what he's capable of doing when healthy. I have no problem taking a risk on him because the rewards should be outstanding. His teammates also recognize his greatness and are counting on him for a big year.
"He's so important to the whole organization," fellow receiver Kevin Walter told the Houston Chronicle. "We need him out here."
Johnson might be near the end of his run as an elite receiver, which is fine. But the epitaph won't be written this year. Johnson is going to have a great season in 2012 and he will return as a Top 3 Fantasy receiver in all leagues.