Duke Johnson was an effective receiver out of the backfield in four seasons with the Browns, and acquiring him only cost the Texans a midround 2020 draft pick that they will likely replace with a compensatory selection next spring.
GREEN BAY, WIS. — The Houston Texans added another playmaker for Deshaun Watson. For the first time, the young quarterback will have a proven pass-catcher in the backfield after Houston traded for running back Duke Johnson on Thursday.
Johnson, who is entering his fifth NFL season, has never had a season with fewer than 47 catches. That came last season, when he was targeted 62 times and gained 429 receiving yards with three touchdowns. He also had 40 carries for 201 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson’s career receiving grade (90.9) ranks fifth among running backs with at least 100 targets, dating back to 2015.
Lamar Miller is still the Texans’ starting running back, but Johnson should give Houston a perfect complement to Miller and a solid backup at the position after the team cut 2017 third-round pick D’Onta Foreman early in training camp. Adding Johnson also means the Texans should be able to lighten Miller’s load, which could help him stay healthy and active for all 16 games this season. Last year, Miller played in 14 games while dealing with ankle and chest injuries.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Texans traded a conditional fourth-round pick in 2020 that could become a third-round pick to the Browns. Even if it is a third-round pick, the Texans are expected to receive at least two compensatory picks, likely in the third round, after losing defensive backs Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson in free agency.
Given the way the Texans’ roster is built, it’s possible that if Johnson stays healthy — he has missed the last nine days of training camp with a hamstring problem — he could rank second on the team in receptions behind DeAndre Hopkins
The Texans haven’t had two receivers catch more than 54 passes in the same season since Andre Johnson and Hopkins in 2014.
Of course, while Duke Johnson has the potential and ability to put up good numbers, Watson already has quite a few players to target. If all stay healthy, Watson also will have Hopkins, Will Fuller, slot receiver Keke Coutee and tight ends Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins at his disposal.
Johnson fills a big hole for the Texans, and, again, with the caveat of his health, Houston’s offense got better and deeper by making this trade.