ARIZONA CARDINALS

PFF: Cardinals’ David Johnson was used in a unique way in 2016

May 29, 2017, 12:28 PM | Updated: 12:52 pm

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs from San Francisco 49ers linebacker Nick Bel...

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs from San Francisco 49ers linebacker Nick Bellore, middle, and defensive end Taylor Hart (96) during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

David Johnson broke out in 2016, tallying 1,239 rushing yards and 879 receiving yards to go along with 20 total touchdowns.

He was a hard-nosed back that could transition into a quick receiver from play to play, a formula that was almost unstoppable, as Pro Football Focus points out.

His use as a receiver made him one of the most unique players in the NFL — to the point Pro Football Focus named him the top receiver in the NFL for 2016.

Take his rushing completely out of the equation, and Johnson would have tied for No. 39 in fantasy scoring at the wide receiver position. And he did that with a lower average depth of target (aDOT) than any qualifying wide receiver.

Johnson was a gold mine for any fantasy owner that drafted him, scoring 407.8 points in ESPN fantasy football, or more than 27 more points than the next-best player.

Johnson’s usage in 2016 doesn’t match any other running back’s usage in the last decade. There have been 67 qualifying running backs with an aDOT of 3.0 yards of higher in that time (Johnson’s was 4.6, 12th-highest). Of those, none have come within 35 of Johnson’s 107 targets, and only 12 players have had even 50 targets at that aDOT.

His 2016 season turned into an anomaly, his 80 receptions tied for 20th among all players and his 293 rush attempts ranked third in the league, numbers that would him make him among the upper echelon of players at both positions.

Running backs who see that depth of target don’t see a lot of targets. Running backs who see a lot of targets don’t have that depth of target or that many carries. Running backs who see that many carries don’t have that many receiving yards. Take out Johnson’s receiving, and he’d have been the No. 8 fantasy running back. Take out his rushing, and he’d have been the No. 39 wide receiver.

Put them both together, and that season hardly even makes sense.

Johnson will look to improve upon his stats from a year ago as he enters his third NFL season in 2017, his first since gaining newfound motivation in the birth of his son.

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PFF: Cardinals’ David Johnson was used in a unique way in 2016