Andre Johnson has been the face of the Houston Texans organization since he was drafted third overall in 2003. Throughout the course of those 11 seasons the future Hall-of-Famer has racked up monster numbers and has been a perennial top 10 WR. Johnson will be 33 years old when the 2014 season kicks off, and there is no doubt No. 80 will be lined up outside for the Texans on their first offensive snap.
The questions regarding Andre’s health and durability as he nears his mid-thirties have arisen yet again, much like the murmurs heard prior to the 2012 and 2013 seasons. These concerns were based on his limited 2011 season in which he only played in seven games. Johnson’s hamstring was an ongoing issue for most of that season, but it has not been an issue since.
Fantasy GMs should take into consideration the quality of QBs the Texans have been forced to start over the time period in which Johnson has been with the team. The names include the 2002 NFL draft’s first overall selection David Carr, Tony Banks, Dave Ragone, Matt Schaub, Sage Rosenfels, T.J. Yates, Matt Leinart, and Case Keenum. It didn’t matter who was under center for the Texans from Johnson’s perspective. His on-field production has been the definition of consistency. We will see if this holds true with whomever the Texans select in May’s 2014 NFL Draft, but history indicates it will not be an issue. First-year HC Bill O’Brien confirmed that the Texans will select a QB in the draft, but did not specify when the team would jump at filling that void.
Andre’s fantasy stock has taken a hit in the last few years due to his lackluster touchdown totals. Johnson only found pay-dirt two times in his injured 2011 season, four in 2012, and five in 2013. These totals go hand-in-hand with his red zone targets in those seasons. Johnson ranked last in RZ targets among the top 13 most-targeted WRs in 2013. Outside of the top 13 were six WRs that had more RZ targets yet they all had between 50-70 less targets overall. There were also six TEs with more RZ targets than Johnson’s 18, and San Diego Chargers RB Danny Woodhead also bested Johnson by four targets inside the 20’s.
Although Johnson hasn’t ever been the primary provider of Texans touchdowns, he has always been a key part of their offense. The targets, YPC average, and yardage totals are still there, and even if Johnson’s numbers regress slightly in 2014, a 1,200 yards, 80 catch season with five touchdowns is still very good.
It is tough to predict when a player will finally hit his wall, but the indicators that generally precede this drop have not reared their ugly head for Johnson. Age eventually catches up to everyone, even the greatest players simply can’t outrun the inevitability of time. But Johnson has shown no signs of slowing down, and when he is healthy he is one of the best at the position and a sure-fire future Hall-of-Famer. Others owners will be hesitant to take Johnson as early as he has gone in past fantasy drafts, but he is still capable of being a top 12 WR after Week 17 of 2014 is in the books.