Diontae Johnson's Fantasy Football Outlook with the Carolina Panthers

Mar 13, 2024
Diontae Johnson's Fantasy Outlook with the Panthers

On Tuesday, March 12, the Steelers traded wide receiver Diontae Johnson to the Panthers. Johnson will join Carolina as the presumed number-one pass-catcher under new head coach Dave Canales.

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Diontae Johnson’s Wide Receiver Profile

Johnson entered the league in 2019 and has since cemented himself as one of the top target-earners in the league, logging three straight seasons of 144-plus targets from 2020–2022 with 547 balls thrown his way since 2020, the sixth most of any wide receiver in that span. While known as one of the best route-runners in the league, Johnson has posted modest efficiency numbers throughout his career, although he did convert a career-high 2.1 yards per route run in 2023, tied for 27th among wide receivers.

Hamstrung by poor quarterback play and lackluster offenses, Johnson has struggled to post flashy fantasy numbers despite his volume, finishing 2023 as the half-PPR WR31 on a per-game basis. That said, Johnson’s specialty is getting separation, regardless of where he is lined up, which route he runs, or how he is covered. Those skills tend to translate into fantasy scoring at some point.

How Diontae Johnson Fits into the Panthers’ Offense

There isn’t much guessing to do when it comes to Johnson’s role in Carolina—he is expected to be Bryce Young’s number one by a wide margin. Adam Thielen started 2023 off strong, posting WR7 numbers through the first six weeks of the season but fizzled down the stretch as the WR59 after the Panthers’ Week 7 bye. Going into his age-34 season, Thielen isn’t likely to have a major impact on Johnson’s target share.

The Panthers don’t have a first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft so it’s unlikely that they add someone to compete with Johnson this season. Johnson is one of the few players with a 30% target share in his range of outcomes and if Carolina approaches 600 pass attempts like they did in 2023, Johnson has a chance to challenge for the league lead in targets. How that translates into fantasy scoring depends entirely on whether or not Young can make a second-year leap.

Young’s rookie season went about as poorly as possible, throwing just 11 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. Over the last 20 years, 61 rookie quarterbacks threw at least 250 times in a season, and Young’s 5.02 adjusted yards per attempt ranks 50th among that group. The bullish case for Young presents itself with the hiring of Dave Canales as the Panther’s head coach. Canales was the quarterback coach for the Seahawks in 2022 when Geno Smith resurrected his career and the Buccaneers offensive coordinator last year when Baker Mayfield got back on track. Johnson has lived in quarterback purgatory so this move at least gives him some upside if Canales can flip Young.

Diontae Johnson’s 2024 Fantasy Football Outlook

No high-volume wide receiver has a lower floor than Johnson—literally. In 2022, Johnson’s 8.1 half-PPR points per game were the lowest ever for a wide receiver with at least 140 targets. However, any player who can be penciled in for 150-plus targets has some fantasy value, especially when price is considered. As mentioned earlier, Johnson can contend for the league lead in targets and he is being drafted as the WR43 on Underdog. 4for4’s Never Too Early Rankings slot Johnson in as the WR34. If Canales can work the magic on Young that he did on Smith and Mayfield, Johnson has the potential to be a steal in fantasy drafts.

The Bottom Line

  • Trading for Diontae Johnson gives the Panthers their number-one wide receiver after Adam Thielen struggled down the stretch in 2023 following a fast start.
  • Other than Thielen, Johnson won’t have much competition for targets—the Panthers currently do not even have a first-round pick in the 2024 Draft. Johnson can be among the league leaders in targets in 2024.
  • Johnson’s fantasy value depends on Bryce Young, who had one of the worst rookie seasons in recent history. New head coach Dave Canales had a hand in refreshing the careers of Geno Smith and Baker Mayfield. If he can do the same for Young, Johnson will be one of the better fantasy values in 2024.
  • Johnson is currently being drafted as the WR43 on Underdog while ranked as 4for4’s WR 34. If Young makes an unexpected leap, Johnson could be an every-week fantasy starter.
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