Even though players can’t officially sign and join new organizations until Wednesday, March 18 when the new league year officially begins, the legal tampering period kicked off Monday at noon. During that legal tampering period, players can agree to terms with new teams.
With that initial period underway, we received a bombshell within the first 90 minutes….
Cardinals get: WR DeAndre Hopkins and a 4th-round pick.
Texans get: RB David Johnson, a second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 16, 2020
Presumably a potentially tough move via trade given his albatross contract compared to output, the Cardinals found no problems at all finding a suitor for David Johnson.
David Johnson Career Stats
Johnson will turn 29-years old this December coming off an injury-plagued 2019 season that halted his production. Through six weeks of last season, Johnson was 12th among all running backs in touches (106) and eighth in yards from scrimmage (613) while he was the RB5 in overall fantasy points. He then suffered back and ankle injuries that forced him to miss three games entirely while finding the field for just 107 snaps over his remaining seven games played in which he totaled just 24 touches for 107 yards.
The odds that Johnson would regain control of a backfield seemed like a longer shot, so a trade to Houston is a shot of adrenaline to his sinking fantasy cost. Houston has 59.6% of their 2019 team rushing attempts vacated, which was the most in the league once Tennessee slapped the franchise tag on Derrick Henry. Johnson may be a declining asset in terms of rushing efficiency, but that gives a clear runway for him to be at worst a volume-based fantasy producer.
Looking above, the one area where Johnson has still remained efficient is in the passing game. In his first six games as a full-time back in 2019, he caught 30 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson has averaged 10.7 yards per catch over his career, which is more than what Austin Hooper has averaged, who was a prized free agent signing today.
The one bugaboo in that area is that the Texans and Deshaun Watson have not been a team that has highly targeted their backs so far in his early career. Houston has ranked 23rd, 32nd, and 28th in running back pass attempts over the past three seasons. That climb to 23rd a year ago came after trading for pass-catching running back Duke Johnson last offseason, who is still under contract with the team through the 2021 season at the moment. With David Johnson’s acquisition paired with the loss of DeAndre Hopkins — who accounted for 28.1% of the Houston targets in 2019 — there’s more passing game opportunity to be gained than those previous Houston offenses. In all, no matter what your opinion on this trade or Johnson as an asset, his fantasy stock takes a significant stride forward from where it was to begin the offseason.
The other part of this trade comes from the Arizona side. Earlier in the morning, the Cardinals had already placed the transition tag on running back Kenyan Drake. Barring an outlier of a contract offer, it’s safe to assume that Drake will be in Arizona as the feature back for the 2020 season. Drake had 19 touches for 162 yards and a touchdown in his first game with the Cardinals last season and never looked back. Drake averaged 18.9 touches for 101.8 yards per game over his eight games after joining Arizona while he was the RB4 in overall PPR scoring Weeks 9-17 with RB1 (38.6 points) and RB3 (30.4 points) performances in the primary fantasy playoff stretch during Weeks 15-16.