Johnson is expected to be the biggest beneficiary of the Saints' decision to trade Adam Trautman, and he was quietly productive in 2022 mostly benefiting from Andy Dalton's unaggressive approach. Johnson finished as a top-12 tight end (11) in PPR in large part due to his seven touchdowns. That number seems likely to regress in 2023. Let someone else chase that 2022 production in Round 11.
Johnson’s an interesting player in an offense with some upside.
He’d be more interesting for fantasy, though, if the Saints hadn’t also signed TE Foster Moreau. The team could very well keep Johnson around last year’s 65% playing time and run him as a third receiver who goes inline occasionally.
Don’t be surprised if he’s more valuable to New Orleans than to fantasy teams. You can find better values around (or after) his ADP.
What We Learned Last YearJohnson more than doubled his playing time last season vs. 2021, from 26.3% of offensive snaps in his 14 games to 65.3% over 16 games in 2022.Johnson finished third among Saints in targets (65), third in receptions (42), second in receiving yards (508), and first in TD catches (7).He finished 14th in total PPR points among TEs; 17th in points per game.His target share checked in just 21st at the position (adjusted for games missed).Johnson posted a career-best 1.39 yards per route, tying for 19th among 43 TEs with 30+ targets.He spent 50% of his pass snaps in the slot, 11th-highest among that TE group, according to Pro Football Focus. His 14.9% share spent out wide ranked 16th. The 34.9% spent inline ranked 30th. That speaks to New Orleans liking his receiving over the blocking.What to Expect in 2023The Saints told us more about how much they like Johnson by re-signing him ahead of free agency. Johnson’s two-year, $12 million contract is almost fully guaranteed.The team also added TE Foster Moreau in free agency, once it was deemed his Hodgkin’s lymphoma wouldn’t keep him from playing this season. Moreau signed for less per year than Johnson, but still got a little more than $12 million total on a three-year deal, with $8 million of that guaranteed.Moreau spent his first four seasons with the Raiders and QB Derek Carr, whom Moreau calls one of his closest friends. The TE also grew up in New Orleans and played college ball at LSU.Moreau more than doubled his slot rate last year vs. his previous high and has played 14.3% of his career pass snaps out wide. But he has also spent much more time inline than Johnson has: 58% for his career, 62.9% or more in each of his first three seasons.The money guaranteed to both players in the same offseason says we should expect to see plenty of both on the field. New Orleans ranked among the league leaders in multi-TE sets last year with a weaker No. 2 (Adam Trautman).We’ll see about the team’s passing volume. The Saints ranked just 25th, 30th, and 26th in pass attempts the past three seasons. The investment in Carr ($150 million over four years, with $100 million guaranteed) seems to indicate more passing lean. But New Orleans also paid for RB Jamaal Williams and drafted RB Kendre Miller in Round 3, while investing little at WR.
Johnson returns as the top pass-catching tight end in New Orleans after coming out of nowhere to finish 15th at the position in fantasy points last season. The converted wide receiver made a little noise with four TDs on 21 targets in 2021 before setting career-high marks in targets, receptions and yards last season. Johnson's seven TDs were fourth-most among TEs in 2022. Though the 15th-place finish was solid, Johnson was painfully inconsistent. He finished as a top-8 scorer in five weeks but was held below 8.5 points 10 times. The 26-year-old will have a better QB in Derek Carr this season, but he'll need a boost in volume in order to offset some TD regression (perhaps unlikely with added target competition). Johnson is best viewed as a mid-to-back-end TE2.