There’s little doubt the Arizona Cardinals‘ David Johnson established himself with last season’s impressive and historic showing, but there’s a case that he could be the best running back in the league.
He doesn’t run behind the Pro Bowl-caliber offensive linemen that Ezekiel Elliott does in Dallas and has proven more durable than Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell. Johnson nearly accomplished the rare feat of 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in the same year.
How do you think he ranks among the league’s top running backs, and does he have what it takes to be great for years to come?
Alden Gonzalez, Los Angeles Rams reporter: Johnson proved last year he has the ability and talent to be the NFL’s greatest dual-threat running back for years to come. My only concern is his workload. Only two running backs had more carries than Johnson’s 293 last season, and none came close to matching his 116 targets. This year his role may expand even further, with Cardinals coach Bruce Arians saying he wants Johnson to average 30 touches a game. That may catch up with him over time. Right now, though, Johnson is heading into his age-26 season as an elite runner and receiver.
It wasn’t just the NFL-leading 2,118 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns from last season. It’s that he did it within a flawed offense, with a struggling Carson Palmer, a banged-up offensive line and a shoddy receiving corps outside of Larry Fitzgerald. It’s that he made 59 of his 80 catches beyond the line of scrimmage. It’s that he gained at least 80 yards on the ground in at least 10 games. It’s that he offers elite change of direction as a running back and superior separation skills as a receiver.
Nick Wagoner, San Francisco 49ers reporter: I’d put him in the top two, alongside Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell, with Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott close behind. An argument could be made that Johnson was the NFL’s best offensive player a year ago when he finished with 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns. And while his rushing numbers didn’t stack up to others, it’s his ability to be effective on all three downs and stay on the field (he hasn’t missed a game in his first two seasons) that makes him a franchise back for years to come. Bell is as talented, but his history of off-field and injury issues could give a slight edge to Johnson. Johnson doesn’t play in a football-mad market like Dallas or Pittsburgh, but his reputation would probably be even better if he did. As it is, his performance in his first two seasons was enough to make him No. 1 on the NFLPA’s “Rising Stars” list, which rates the marketability of some of the league’s best young players. Perhaps Johnson’s star is only currently acknowledged by the fantasy football community, but if he continues at his current pace, that will change.
This could be the last year Arizona has Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and Bruce Arians together to make one more run at a Super Bowl. Arizona has filled needs throughout the offseason on both offense and defense. Compared with the rest of the division, what are the Cardinals’ chances of making a run to Super Bowl LII?
Sheil Kapadia, Seattle Seahawks reporter: An argument can be made for Ezekiel Elliott or Le’Veon Bell, but looking at the entire body of work, I’m comfortable calling Johnson the most complete back in the NFL. He hasn’t missed a game in two NFL seasons and last year showed that he could shoulder the load with 293 carries. What makes Johnson special is his ability as a receiver, and that causes panic among opposing defensive coordinators on a weekly basis. Johnson leads all backs with 1,336 receiving yards over the past two seasons. And he has averaged 11.52 yards per reception, which is also tops among backs. You can build an entire game plan around him, and given that Johnson is only 25, he should be special for at least the next three or four years.