Duke Johnson, Karan Higdon, More Fantasy Outlook After Lamar Miller's Injury

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 25, 2019

BEREA, OH - AUGUST 5: Runningback Duke Johnson Jr. #29 during the Cleveland Browns Training Camp on August 5, 2019 at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

The Houston Texans and fantasy football managers may be scrambling for production out of the backfield after running back Lamar Miller suffered a left leg injury during Saturday night's preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys.

That opens the door for Duke Johnson to take over as the primary back while Miller is sidelined.

With that in mind, here is a look at the fantasy implications for such a move.

             

Duke Johnson

Houston acquired Johnson from the Cleveland Browns earlier this month to provide depth at the running back position while also adding a proven playmaker in the passing game.

Now, that trade looms large.

Johnson has averaged 4.3 yards per carry for his four-year career, though he has never been used as the workhorse back. His career high for carries is 104, which was recorded during his rookie campaign in 2015.

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The veteran's fantasy value has always come via the passing game. He has averaged 59 receptions per season, never having fewer than 47 in a single season. Meanwhile, he has never finished a season with fewer than 400 receiving yards—which is a feat some full-time wide receivers can't boast about.

Johnson figures to be a must-start in points-per-reception leagues should Miller miss time. With opposing defenses having to worry about the aerial attack featuring Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, they won't be stacking the box, opening up space on the ground for the likes of Johnson.

Meanwhile, Johnson should have plenty of opportunities to help Watson move the ball through the air as well.

And perhaps just as important as his production, Johnson has never missed a game in his career. That type of dependability should give fantasy owners a sense of security.

     

Karan Higdon

For those fantasy owners who don't have Johnson, Karan Higdon could wind up being a name keeping an eye on.

There are a number of players vying for a spot on the roster behind Miller and Johnson—but it was Higdon who was the next man up on Saturday.

An undrafted free agent out of Michigan, Higdon is continuing to look to establish himself in the NFL.

He saw his numbers improve with each passing season in Ann Arbor, rushing for a career-high 1,178 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final season with the Wolverines. He piled up 21 rushing touchdowns over his final two seasons.

Higdon does not have record-setting quickness, but after recording a 4.49 40-yard dash at the combine, the 5'10", 202-pound back has some speed to work with.

At this point, Higdon would be a high-risk option for fantasy owners. It's possible he could find himself receiving more snaps in Miller's absence, but with Johnson likely the No. 1 option, fantasy owners will need to be patient with Higdon and wait to see what kind of role he may have in the offense moving forward.

DeAndre Hopkins

There is reason to think Miller's absence will impact the fantasy production of Houston's top receiver.

Opposing defenses won't have to send safeties into the box to account for Miller, and more defenders in the secondary means more double-teams for Hopkins. While that may be the case, there is still no reason to take Hopkins out of the WR1 position.

He is arguably the best receiver in the league and has a high floor as someone who never finished with fewer than 802 receiving yards in any of his first six seasons. He also topped the 1,000-yard mark four times in that span and posted 1,572 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in 2018.

What's more, the talent around Hopkins doesn't seem to dent his production much. He finished with more than 1,200 receiving yards in 2014 and 2015 even though Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett were the primary quarterbacks.

If he can do that, Hopkins will continue putting up monster numbers even with Miller out. Don't do anything drastic and keep him in the lineup.