PFF names Cardinals RB David Johnson 2016’s best — wait for it — receiver

Jan 24, 2017, 4:17 PM | Updated: Jan 25, 2017, 1:04 pm
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) catches a touchdown pass in front of Minnesota Vi...
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) catches a touchdown pass in front of Minnesota Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, left, during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)
(AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliott took home Pro Football Focus’ “Best Runner” award, leaving Cardinals running back David Johnson in his wake.

But that doesn’t mean the football analytics site left Johnson without an honor when handing out its 2016 NFL season awards.

The second-year running back took home PFF’s award for the “Best Receiver,” and apparently, that’s because he had the best receiving grade of 92.6 in the entire NFL — actual receivers included.

The first of our awards that spans multiple positions sees Arizona Cardinals RB David Johnson earn an award most would expect to go to a wide receiver. Johnson’s work as a receiver for the Cardinals this season, however, was spectacular.  Only Larry Fitzgerald had more targets, receptions and receiving yards than Johnson for Arizona this year, as he racked up 80 catches (most among RBs) for 879 yards (most among RBs), forcing 27 missed tackles after the catch to gain that yardage (again, most among RBs). Johnson actually finished the season with the highest PFF receiving grade (92.6) of any player at any position, narrowly edging Mike Evans and Julio Jones at wide receiver.

Those 80 Johnson catches came on 120 targets, and he averaged 11 yards per reception. In comparison, Evans recorded 96 receptions on 175 targets for a better average of 13.8. Jones, who is even more of a deep threat, caught 83 balls off 129 targets for an average of 17 yards per reception.

Johnson also caught far fewer touchdowns than those elite receivers — four compared to Evans’ 12 and Jones’ six.

It’s hard to determine where exactly Johnson stands out in PFF’s analytical grades to leapfrog two very good receivers.

Still, it’s another reminder of just how dangerous Arizona’s running back is whether he’s running in between his Cardinals offensive linemen or giving quarterback Carson Palmer a dangerous option in the passing game.

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PFF names Cardinals RB David Johnson 2016’s best — wait for it — receiver