Kerryon Johnson has flashed plenty of talent in his two seasons with the Detroit Lions but has had trouble staying healthy – and now he has rookie D’Andre Swift to deal with in terms of splitting carries. Here are Johnson’s odds at Mybookie to lead the NFL in rushing yards in the 2020 regular season as well as Detroit’s Week 1 odds.
Johnson was the No. 43 overall pick out of Auburn in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Lions. He was the sixth running back to be selected that year.
He declared following a monster junior season in which Johnson had 1,391 yards rushing (sixth best season in school history) on 285 carries for 18 rushing touchdowns (third) and 20 total touchdowns, leading the SEC in all four categories.
In his rookie season, Johnson made a splash fairly early in rushing for 101 yards in Week 3 vs. New England, becoming the first Lions’ player since Reggie Bush in 2013 to rush for more than 100 yards. He also became the first Lions rookie running back to rush for 100 yards since Mikel Leshoure (2012), as well as the first Lions rookie running back to rush for 100-or-more yards on 16-or-fewer carries since Don McIlhenny (1956).
The performance won him the starting role over LeGarrette Blount. In Week 7 vs. the Dolphins, he had 158 yards on 19 carries. Johnson became second-youngest Lions’ player to reach 150 yards rushing by just three days to Barry Sanders and the first Lions’ player of any age since Jahvid Best in 2011. Johnson was only the fourth player in team history to rush for at least 155 yards on less than 20 carries since Best (2011). His 71-yard rush was the longest by a Lions player since 2011 (Best).
Johnson finished with 641 yards and three scores in 10 games, his 2018 season cut short with a knee injury. He still became the first Lion to produce 640-plus rushing yards with three touchdowns and 210-plus receiving yards and one touchdown in his first 10 games of a season since 2002 (James Stewart), and is only one of two rookies in franchise history to do so (Billy Sims, 1980)
Last season, Johnson was limited to just eight games with another knee problem that required surgery. Johnson finished with 403 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns to go along with 10 receptions for 127 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown.
In 2019, Detroit’s rushing attack finished 21st in the league going off total yardage, with its 4.1 yards per attempt at the 22nd spot. The Lions also ranked 29th in the league in rushing touchdowns with a measly seven scores on the ground. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell wants to run more.
Johnson’s efficiency took a hit as he was much better on the ground in 2018 (5.4 YPC) than in 2019 (3.6). In both seasons, he suffered injuries after getting exactly five straight games of over 50% of the snaps. But he averaged exactly 100 yards from scrimmage in the 2018 games and 77 yards from scrimmage in the 2019 games.
Back-to-back seasons marred by missed games won’t help Johnson’s cause in working as the offense’s three-down RB in 2020. Neither will the Lions taking Georgia tailback D’Andre Swift in the second round of this year’s draft.
When asked what his first reaction to the Swift pick was, Johnson said he was watching “Harry Potter” and that he expected the team to add someone at his position.
By having the highly-talented Swift as his running mate, Johnson should be able to play with fresher legs and most importantly, stay healthy, at the very least, for the majority of 2020. Coach Matt Patricia’s preference to rotate backs on gameday likely leaves Johnson stuck in a committee (again) this upcoming season.
“For me, we’re going to try to play whoever is going to help us in that particular play, that particular game, whatever it might be,” Patricia said. “If you’re out there for the very first play, or you get out there on the second play, I don’t really understand what the difference is in a starter in that case.”