Andre Johnson’s escape from Houston, where he toiled for 12 seasons and made seven Pro Bowls despite suffering through 10 different starting quarterbacks, and subsequent reunion with a bevy of ex-Miami Hurricanes in Indianapolis is one of the feel-good stories of the off-season.
The platitudes continued as the Colts opened up OTAs, with Johnson moving around in a variety of roles and catching passes from easily the best quarterback he’s played with. And Johnson himself is excited, as he told USA Today Sports.
“It was a frustrating few years [in Houston], so just being here, it’s like a breath of fresh air,” Johnson said.
A seven-time Pro Bowler, reborn with Andrew Luck at the helm… the fantasy possibilities are off the charts.
Of course Luck will make a difference, but before Johnson fever overtakes us all let’s review his career to date. Johnson hasn’t scored more than five touchdowns in a season since 2010, and his next double-digit TD campaign will be his first. AJ has made his fantasy hay as a volume guy—which could be a problem given the depth of the receiving corps in Indy and Johnson’s role in it.
Last year Indy’s top two receivers, TY Hilton and Reggie Wayne, saw 131 and 116 targets respectively. Only twice in the 10 seasons Johnson has played at least 10 games did he fail to see at least 138 targets—his rookie campaign of 2003 and his third NFL season, 2005. With so many mouths to feed, even a rejuvenated AJ is looking at a target total that falls in the bottom half of his career numbers—and even Johnson agrees.
“I think any receiver would love to go out and catch a whole bunch of passes,” Johnson told the Colts’ team website. “But, you know, I think at the same time—with the talent that we have—we have a lot of guys that can make plays. There’s only one football, and when you get your opportunities you have to make the best of them.”
“You’re not really focused on how many balls and that stuff, it’s just doing what you need to do to win,” Johnson continued. “That’s the biggest thing, and that’s why I’m here. I want to win, with the ultimate goal of the Super Bowl, and I don’t know if that’s 10 balls (per game) or two balls, or whatever.”
Sounds like Johnson has accepted the role of wingman as the sun starts setting on his career. He played second fiddle to DeAndre Hopkins in Houston last year, and he’s slated to do the same in Indy with Hilton handling WR1 chores. The WR2 gig was shared amongst Wayne, Donte Moncrief and Hakeem Nicks last year, and whether you give Johnson Wayne’s 64-779-2 on 116 targets or combine Nicks and Moncrief’s numbers (70-889-7 on 118 targets) it certainly wasn’t a fantasy goldmine.
And don’t forget Indy also sports a pair of pass-catching tight ends who combined for 142 targets, 80 catches, 1,169 yards and 16 touchdowns last year. Plus they spent a first-round pick on wide receiver Phillip Dorsett and also landed Duron Carter in the offseason.
Yes, even at age 34 Johnson is a better receiver than any of the aforementioned wingmen. Yes, he’ll profit from playing with Andrew Luck instead of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, Ryan Mallett, Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates, Matt Leinart, Sage Rosenfels, or David Carr. But unless he becomes something he has yet to be in a dozen NFL seasons—a red-zone magnet—he’ll be cobbling together numbers that put his upside in borderline fantasy WR2 territory.
So it’s a nice story. But at the end of the day, Johnson’s a veteran receiver hanging around to get a Super Bowl ring—not win you a fantasy championship.