With less than six weeks before most NFL teams report to their respective training camps, it is time most fans start to think about their fantasy football drafts. While those drafts are still a couple months away, for most leagues, it is never too early to consider who could be in for a big year, and who could be worth passing on in your annual draft.
When ESPN put together a list of players who are being overvalued and undervalued for fantasy football, it was Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson who made the list. However, unlike what most Steelers fans might believe, he made the undervalued list, not the alternative.
Here is ESPN’s thinking on why Johnson might be a steal in your upcoming fantasy football draft:
Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers:
Let’s start with this: I guarantee you that Johnson catches a touchdown pass in 2023. If you’ve watched or listened to “Fantasy Focus” this offseason, you’ve heard us talk about the historic 2022 season from Johnson, becoming the first player in NFL history with 85-plus catches and no TDs. That’s not happening again. Between the positive TD regression that analyst Mike Clay preaches and Kenny Pickett making strides under center entering his second season, Johnson is primed to outperform what he did last season, and you can get him at a discount! I have him as a top-20(ish) WR, but his current average draft position is in WR3/flex territory.
The fact Johnson is coming off a year where he produced in terms of receptions, but didn’t have any touchdowns, should have him at a discount when it comes to your upcoming fantasy football draft. But there are some who are weary of Johnson after such a strange season, and with the quarterback situation seemingly in flux.
Well, the quarterback situation seems to have settled with Kenny Pickett at the helm, and it looks as if Johnson might be primed for a return to his 2021 form in many ways. What did that look like? Below are his 2022 and 2021 stat lines:
86 receptions, 882 yards, 10.3 average, 37 yard long, 0 TD, 25 rush yards, 3.6 average
107 receptions, 1,161 yards, 10.9 average, 50 yard long, 8 TDs, 53 rush yards, 10.6 average
2021 was the final year of Ben Roethlisberger’s career, and Johnson was Roethlisberger’s favorite target. Since Roethlisberger’s retirement, no quarterback, Mitch Trubisky or Pickett, have found the same level of cohesion with the talented wide receiver.
Will 2023 be a return to the 2021 version of Diontae Johnson? With Pickett entering Year 2 it would likely be Johnson’s opportunity to not just make Steelers fans happy, but also his fantasy football owners.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the 2023 NFL offseason.