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D’Ernest Johnson: From AAF Star to Priority NFL Waiver Add

D’Ernest Johnson: From AAF Star to Priority NFL Waiver Add

Injuries are never fun to deal with in fantasy football. But as a former fanatic of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF), sometimes we get a silver lining with an injury and see a player from either the AAF or XFL get an opportunity to shine. That is exactly what happened in Week 4. With Nick Chubb spraining his MCL, former Orlando Apollos (#TakeAim) RB D’Ernest Johnson got run alongside Kareem Hunt and cruised to 95 yards on just 13 carries in the Browns’ huge upset over Dallas. As part of our in-depth looks at some of the top waiver pickups each week, it is my distinct pleasure to introduce you to the incredibly talented, D’Ernest Johnson.

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Player Profile

D’Ernest Johnson played his college ball at South Florida. He played a versatile role on the offenses there but was never really given the role of a featured back as he played behind Marlon Mack for three years. Johnson still flashed as a runner, receiver, and special-teams maven. He finished as USF’s career leader in all-purpose yards (4,186), receptions by a running back (73), and receiving yards by a running back (909).

Johnson’s claim to fame for many of us came when he joined the Orlando Apollos in the Alliance of American Football. There Johnson and De’Veon Smith formed the most formidable duo of RBs in the league. Even though Johnson stood out more as a receiver than Smith, Johnson still finished with the second-most rushing yards in the league, according to No Extra Points. He also finished as the overall RB2 in the league behind the check-down king, Trent Richardson.

After the AAF collapsed, Johnson was picked up by the Browns. He put together an impressive training camp and led the team in rushing during the preseason, which all aided in him making the Browns’ initial 53-man roster for the 2019 season alongside his AAF QB, Garrett Gilbert.

Johnson only notched 10 touches in 2019 as a role never really presented itself behind Chubb and Hunt. With the Browns now opting to embrace the dual-RB system, Johnson quickly showed off his potential in Week 4 after Chubb left with a sprained MCL.

State of the Offense

Believe it or not, the Browns are top-five in the league when it comes to points for this season. They also lead the league with 139 rushing attempts, 818 rushing yards, and eight rushing TDs this season. This offense relies heavily on its potent running game to keep them going as they rank bottom-eight in passing attempts and bottom-five in passing yards.

Outlook

Nick Chubb’s expected to miss six weeks with his injury. That’s almost half of the season. It’s also important to remember that Hunt came into Week 4 listed questionable with a groin injury. Chubb’s absence leaves a gaping hole of available opportunity for both Hunt and Johnson to split. While Hunt is obviously the favorite to shoulder an extra workload, Johnson could be in line for 10-12 touches per game given his versatility. If anything further happens with Hunt’s injury, you’re looking at the very real possibility of D’Ernest Johnson being a potential RB1 for fantasy purposes. Johnson is gifted the immense opportunity of being on one of the most effective and voluminous running games in the league right now and fits in perfectly as a versatile weapon that could be used all over the field.

D’Ernest Johnson should be considered no worse than a flex play moving forward while Hunt is healthy. Looking at the Browns’ upcoming schedule, the next two weeks offer tough matchups on paper against the Colts and Steelers who are unfavorable matchups for fantasy according to our matchup calendar. Things lighten up after that with cushy matchups against the Bengals and Raiders, who currently allow the most fantasy points to RBs. Given the Browns backfield’s high-volume nature and Johnson’s innate ability to work out of the backfield as a receiver, he could be less game-flow dependent than your run of the mill backup RB.

Johnson is the consensus favorite as the top RB pickup of the week according to our Week 5 waiver wire rankings, and I whole-heartedly agree. Please go out and grab him.

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If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team, and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.

John Ferguson is a featured writer and editor at FantasyPros. For more from John, check out his archive and follow him @FantasyFerguson.

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