October 12, 2012 @ 13:00:53 PDT
NFL.com analyst Michael Lombardi provides notes on around-the-league items. You'll find many of these on KFFL.com's Hot off the Wire. Many of them also apply to fantasy football, as usual, and are often quite tasty.
One of his Friday entrees confirmed a fear I've had for some time: Andre Johnson looks like he's on his way down. The 31-year-old seemed like a decent value in drafts this year, frequently falling to Round 3 or 4. I probably would've ordered him if he had made it to me at those spots, but other drafters were always willing to pay menu price.
I'm glad I didn't, because A.J. would've left me a tad empty, and to express my irritation, I would've probably had uncomfortably introspective conversations with myself. (If you haven't yet, see the movie from the title. It's pretty darn good.)
He ranks 31st among wideouts in scoring standard leagues: just 17 catches, 283 yards and two touchdowns so far. That's a capable 16.6 hashmarks-per-grab average, but the volume leaves some to be desired, which was a chief preseason concern of mine that still looms for the high-priced, well-known commodity.
Since his 10-look Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins, he hasn't garnered more than six targets in a contest. He's hauled in three or fewer tosses in four of his five games, and if not for a 60-yard scoring bomb in Week 3 allowed chiefly by a safety blitz, Johnson would have been averaging 13.9 yards per snare for 2012 - not bad, but less than what his owners expect.
Even with that opportunistic gamebreaker, the consistent fear from defenders isn't there anymore. To be fair, AJ is really more of an after-the-catch dynamo than a blow-it-open deep threat, but Lombardi astutely points out the problem in assessing Johnson's one-catch, 15-yard game against the Darrelle Revis-less New York Jets:
During the preseason, I did not make Johnson a blue-chip player, downgrading him to red, but I'm not even sure he's that anymore. Johnson cannot run, burst or make sharp cuts, which has been the case since his hamstring injury.
Antonio Cromartie frequently performs well against wideouts that resemble his big, physical stature, so it wasn't completely surprising that Johnson faltered. My pessimism is neutralized by the big play he showed against Denver, which proves Johnson is hardly dead. He still makes shimmies here and there that freeze lesser DBs.
But Cromartie's coverage notes a disturbing trend: Johnson is showing he is no longer a true WR1, ala Larry Fitzgerald, where you'd have confidence in him to consistently create plays instead of falling into them when defenses prepare a silver platter. He's becoming more reliant on defensive ineptitude and mistakes to be productive.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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