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Ty Johnson Spotlight

Ready for liftoff?

by Andy Singleton (@PeoplezPen)

It is not all of the time that we think of five feet nine inches as big. Well, I suppose when phrased like that it could be record setting, depending on the application. Ty Johnson, all 5’9″ and 210 pounds of him is big. Come to think of it, stout would probably be more accurate. Regardless, when watching him on film, his game play feels a lot bigger than a typical running back of the same proportions. I can’t explain it much better than that, but his size in pads on the field feels a lot bigger to me than what it would represent on paper. Maybe it’s because of the reckless abandon he runs with. Maybe it’s because his broad shoulders look like a tank coming at you. Whatever it is, upon taking a second look at Maryland, I could not believe this guy never stood out to me more. Life can be funny like that. Sometimes we miss the obvious. And in the case of Ty Johnson, this may indeed hold true. There is a lot you will find on Johnson, and I’m not here to rehash it all, but rather summarize for you, and try to put a bow on it. This isn’t a Draft Profile I normally do, but rather a recommendation for your Fantasy Football rosters, more specifically, your Week 3 Waiver Wire claims. If you don’t want to keep reading, the short version is I definitely think Johnson is a must add to all rosters right now. Is this to say he will win any of your upcoming weeks, or even be a startable option? No. Not entirely. But he does have the potential to be a league winner, which holds more value, and he is a dynasty stash that needs some more recognition.

Ty Johnson was a high school phenom in the state of Maryland, finishing his career at Fort Hill as the number one ranked Running Back in the land of blue crabs. Scout had him as the RB1 in Maryland, but he was a standout on Defense and Special Teams as well, and led his team to undefeated seasons in his junior and senior years. None of that was enough to garner major attention or offers from other programs, so he stayed local, and became a Terrapin. His career there was rather odd though, as when you look at the composite, the 4,196 all purpose yards are rather impressive. However, it still wasn’t enough to garner much national attention, nor a Senior Bowl invite, Combine invitation, or any favorable scouting reports I could find. One number truly stood out to me in that college profile, and that was the career 7.6 yards per carry he accomplished. Surely, that has to be a small sample size, you would assume. I mean even Todd Gurley, who everyone agrees had an outstanding college career running behind a tremendous Georgia line, even he only finished at 6.4 ypc in his college career. What about Derrick Henry, who amassed over 2,000 yards on his way to a Heisman? Nope. He finished even less at an even 6.0 ypc. So that 7.6 number for Johnson seems even more impressive. Especially when you think about how bad the Maryland teams were during the bulk of his four years there. He only had one 1,000 yard season as a Terp, but did so on just 110 carries. What?! Yes, he averaged a whopping 9.1 ypc as a sophomore! You’d think a player putting up those gaudy numbers would generate more buzz. Especially when his teammate D.J. Moore was getting tons of looks the year before. But nope, not Ty Johnson. And I will admit I missed this as well. His teammates didn’t. They raved about his freakish athleticism. His superman like speed, or his bench pressing prowess. There are rumors floating around of him running a 40 yard dash in the mid 4.2’s, and putting up over 27 reps of 225 pounds on the bench. I haven’t been able to find an “official” 40 time for him, but judge for yourself from his Pro Day. The kid can move.

What does all of this have to do with him now, though? And how does this affect my Fantasy Football team? Well, over the summer, while everyone was running to acquire the buzz worthy players such as Darwin Thompson and Darrell Henderson, not many outside of Detroit were paying much attention to Johnson. Sure, the Lions cut Theo Riddick, which raised some eyes from the fantasy community. But this is the Year of the Kerryon, so it still wasn’t much to move the needle. Plus, the Lions signed the veteran C.J. Anderson, who just almost won a Super Bowl for the Rams single handedly. So how much impact could Johnson really have. Fast forward a few weeks, and Ty Johnson is now sitting at second on the Detroit depth chart, behind just Kerryon Johnson. Surely he must have done something noteworthy, or offer upside as a pass catching change of pace back on third downs and in the hurry up, right? Wrong. Go back to those scouting reports I told you about, and none of them tell you he’s a good receiver. Look at the college production, and only 29 receptions over his four year Maryland career. Plus, the Lions already have J.D. McKissic, who we only know because he has had success previously in Seattle, as that Theo Riddick, pass catching specialist (which is the only reason we really know Riddick). Not to mention, everyone raves about Kerryon’s ability to catch, and be an every down back. So why does this matter for Ty Johnson at all? I couldn’t list you every notable reception he has had, but I can provide you a glimpse of what I have seen, and why I do think there is hope for this incredible athlete. Here is a catch he had at Maryland. Nothing one handed, or highlight reel worthy, but not an easy grab to make by any means. Back to the defense, short area throw, on the move towards the sidelines knowing you’ll have to change course. There is a lot happening in this what appears to be routine outlet.

Admittedly, it isn’t the most glamorous of plays. But it captures several things for me: concentration, hands, balance, burst, vision. These are all attributes I am looking for in a running back, and you either have them by this stage in your career, or you don’t. They aren’t very teachable anymore at this point. Consistency is the next factor, but the others are the prerequisite. So he has them, and that is what makes him an NFL caliber athlete. And not just one that can be on a roster, but one that can succeed, and dare I say, shine. Of course, the game at the pro level is much faster, and these are all athletes of the same ilk. What can he do against someone of his own abilities? Again, small sample size to work with here, but I am only looking for evidence that can suggest future success. After all, Ty Johnson didn’t even get much work in the preseason. Not only is the sample size ridiculously small, but all of the tea leaves are pointing towards him having a greater importance to his team going forward. Why is this happening? What is he doing? Why should I believe, if I’m still not convinced from everything already mentioned? In Week 2 of the 2019 NFL season, Ty Johnson only got 5 carries totaling 30 yards. But he had this 17 yard scamper, that again, gives an awful lot of clues.

Of all the traits I mentioned before, none of them were really mentioned in any of Ty Johnson’s scouting reports. Burst was, and rightfully so. I mean, as some have put it, he really does look like he’s being shot out of a cannon. And you can see that in both of the clips I presented you with. Remember at the very beginning of this, when I mentioned the power I see, and how he looks bigger to me than his listed height and weight would indicate? Do you see what I do? Him running through would be tacklers, and doing it with drive and effort. You aren’t going to bring him down with a lazy arm grab. Remember that elusive speed we examined earlier? Do you see it? The ability to blow by the first and second levels of the defense, and get into the teeth of the secondary. We all drooled over the big play, breakaway speed of Darrell Henderson. Well guess what? Ty Johnson has it! I marveled at Devin Singletary’s lower body and leg strength, and guess what, Johnson has that too! There is certainly some room for improvement as he develops in his career, but the base model you are getting with Ty Johnson is exquisite, and offers hope for a bright future. Is Kerryon Johnson always going to be in the way? Yes, for now. But there is room to believe they can share touches, and both be successful. There is also room to believe he can get goal line touches, and sprinkle in some receptions for you PPR’ers. The bottom line is that he is demanding playing time based on his physical abilities, and the results he is displaying when given those opportunities. Those kinds of players always find a way to continue proving it, until they no longer can. We have collectively missed on Johnson far too many times, and for far too long. Don’t continue making the same mistakes! The likelihood is that no one is still prioritizing him, yet. You do not have to break the bank to acquire him at this time. Just get ahead of the curve, and plan for the future. There is a place for him on your roster.

Drop a comment below with your thoughts on Ty Johnson. Are you buying?