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David Johnson a ‘sleeper’ for Offensive Player of the Year

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs in the open field as he gets past Oakland Raiders' Ben Heeney (50) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The hype train is full speed ahead for David Johnson.

After impressing in training camp last year with skills as a receiving back and his mobility at 6-foot-1 and 224 pounds. Johnson followed that up by breaking out towards the end of the regular season and finishing with 13 total touchdowns in his rookie campaign.

Now he’s a perennial first-round pick in fantasy football and figures to be the star man in the Arizona Cardinals offense. NFL.com’s Adam Schein could see that turning into an Offensive Player of the Year season, calling Johnson a sleeper for the NFL award.

Last year on my SiriusXM radio show, “Schein on Sports,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim compared Johnson — who had yet to even play an NFL snap — to Jamaal Charles. And we saw why in Johnson’s neophyte campaign — particularly in the second half, when he really got an opportunity to show off his full skill set. As noted by colleague Chris Wesseling: From the time Johnson entered the starting lineup in Week 13 through the regular-season finale, no NFL player averaged more yards from scrimmage per game than the former Northern Iowa star’s 131.7.

This 24-year-old is a multi-talented terror in the backfield. Talking to the press this week, Keim said Johnson is “probably the best receiving back I’ve seen.”

“A lot of people have compared him to Marshall Faulk, and our coaches had Marshall Faulk in Indy,” Keim said. “I think he’s very similar in some ways athletically and in terms of ball-catching skills to Marshall.”

When Steve Keim speaks, we listen. Johnson is a freak and a perfect fit in Bruce Arians’ offense. He is going to put up monster numbers this season.

As Schein notes, Johnson has the all-around type of game to win the major award. He was the only running back in the NFL last year to have at least four receiving touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns. With the numbers he put up last season, Johnson could be in line for some serious records.

The aforementioned Faulk is the only running back to have at least eight receiving touchdowns in a season in the last 15 years. There’s also been only 26 occurrences of a player amounting to least 20 overall touchdowns for a running back and only one in this decade (LeSean McCoy had 20 in 2011).

With Johnson starting only five games last year, stats like those are in play and the type you’d expect from an Offensive Player of the Year.

In the past 10 years, four running backs have won the award, including his teammate Chris Johnson, who won it in 2009 with the Tennessee Titans.

Arizona has never had a player in Offensive Player of the Year.

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