In a stunning trade this winter, the Houston Texans shipped out All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona for a package built around past-his-prime Cardinals running back David Johnson. Here are Johnson’s odds at Mybookie to lead the NFL in rushing yards in the 2020 regular season as well Houston’s Week 1 odds.
Johnson was a third-round pick in 2015 by the Cardinals from not-exactly football powerhouse Northern Iowa. Johnson was not a very touted recruit and the only other school to offer Johnson an athletic scholarship was Illinois State.
However, Johnson got on the radar of NFL scouts in his senior season when he set numerous school single-season and career records. Appeared in 49 games (36 starts) at Northern Iowa, rushing for 4,687 yards and 49 touchdowns on 866 attempts while adding 141 receptions for 1,734 yards and 14 touchdowns. He posted three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to finish his collegiate career, leading the team in rushing in each season.
Johnson opened his rookie NFL season as the fourth string running back behind veterans Andre Ellington, Chris Johnson, and Stepfan Taylor but quickly showed he was the best of the bunch. He finished the season having carried 125 times for 581 yards with eight touchdowns, and caught 36 passes for 457 yards and four touchdowns.
It was in 2016 when Johnson showed he was one of the NFL’s top offensive talents. He set single-season career highs in rushing yards (1,239) rushing touchdowns (16), receptions (80) and receiving yards (879). He was named to the Pro Bowl and a First-Team All-Pro. Johnson led the NFL with a franchise-record 2,118 scrimmage yards, had an NFL-best 20 touchdowns and ranked second in the league with 16 rushing touchdowns.
He tied the NFL single-season record with 15 consecutive games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage (Barry Sanders, 1997) and became the first player to open the season with 15 straight 100-yard games.
However, Johnson suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1 of the 2017 season. Despite that, the Cardinals gave him three-year, $39 million contract extension with $30 million guaranteed on the eve of the 2018 season. Johnson racked up 1,386 scrimmage yards (940 rushing, 446 receiving) and 10 total touchdowns (seven rushing, three receiving). He joined wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald as the only players in Cardinals’ history to score 10-or-more touchdowns in three different seasons (2015, 2016, 2018).
Last year, Johnson was limited to 13 games and simply wasn’t very good, finished the season with 345 yards and two touchdowns on 98 carries (3.7 avg.) along with 36 receptions for 370 yards (10.3 avg.) and four touchdowns. He was eventually surpassed on the depth chart by Kenyan Drake. Johnson did become just the fifth player in NFL history with at least 30 rushing touchdowns and 15 receiving touchdowns in his first five seasons.
In March, the Cardinals stole All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins from Houston by sending off Johnson and a couple of draft picks. Arizona might have simply released Johnson and his big salary if not for the trade. Johnson will draw a base salary of $10.2 million and carry a cap hit of nearly $11.2 million this season and Texans took on his entire salary.
Johnson will be the clear-cut No. 1 guy in Houston. Texans coach Bill O’Brien said, ” Johnson is a three-down back who has had some very productive years. … The type of guy he is, I’m so excited about having him, Randall Cobb, Brandin Cooks in our locker room.”
O’Brien could feel pressure to feed Johnson plenty of touches in an effort to make the DeAndre Hopkins trade look better. The likes of Arian Foster, Lamar Miller and Carlos Hyde have all been fed 250-plus touches in a single season since O’Brien took over in Houston back in 2014.
Johnson still does not think he is a lesser player than the one who took the league by storm in 2015 and 2016.
“No, I don’t,” Johnson said. “Obviously I was dealing with injuries, and that’s rough, but that’s part of football. Everyone has injuries, especially toward this time of the year, so it’s really how you play with the injuries.”