Charles Johnson remains on the fantasy fringe in Carolina
Charles Johnson has re-signed with the Carolina Panthers on a one-year, $3 million deal, reportedly turning down much larger offers from both the Buccaneers and Giants, according to Adam Schefter.
The contract certainly seems on the low side for the nine-year veteran who looked back to near his brilliant best during the Panthers playoff run. He charted nine tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles over those three games. In contrast to that, Johnson had posted a poor regular season as he managed just one sack in nine games due to his struggles with a hamstring injury, which kept him on the sidelines.
Despite such an impressive postseason, Johnson is not an elite IDP option, and he does not project as one. The last time he broke into the top-30 fantasy defensive lineman in a balanced scoring system was 2012 when he finished seventh, posting career bests in sacks (12.5) and forced fumbles (seven). Thats despite the fact he has averaged 10.5 sacks a year for the previous five seasons (not including 2015).
Although enthusiasm for a major Johnson resurgence needs to be tempered, that’s not to say he cannot become fantasy relevant again and offer value as a DL2/3, or matchup-based play some weeks. Notably, the emergence of DT Kawann Short last season as an interior pass rushing threat will allow Johnson more favorable matchups on the edge.
Short had 12 sacks, 10 hits and 42 hurries last season. Those numbers put in him in the conversion with the likes of Aaron Donald and Geno Atkins as the best fantasy defensive tackle. The retirement of Jared Allen opens the door for third-year man, Kony Ealy, who flashed his potential to draw attention away from Johnson with three sacks in the Super Bowl.
At only 29, Johnson potentially has several more seasons of playing at a high level left. But to take the step up from being a DL2/3 to a borderline DL1, he’ll need to start converting his sacks into strip sacks as he did in 2012, something he has struggled with throughout his career. Excluding 2012, Johnson has only translated 17.6 percent of his sacks into a forced fumble, a low figured compared to top tier defensive lineman such as Robert Quinn (34 percent).
Consider Johnson one of the more appealing upside DL3s in 2016. He has a track record of double-digit sack seasons, and is playing on an improving defensive line that has plugged in a some other legitimate puss rush threats which will allow him better matchups on game day.
It’s difficult to envisage Johnson leaping all the way back into the upper echelons of the DL1 ranks, but a volatile, solid DL2 season is not off the cards with the improved cast around him. With that said, a borderline DL2/3 season seems most likely.