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NFL Player Props: Can Kerryon Johnson & Adam Thielen Get Over in 2019?

The NFL preseason is less than a month and a half away, and some season-long NFL player props are finally hitting the streets.

Caesars in Vegas and NJ has released some lines for NFC/AFC North players for us to attack and analyze. I tend to gravitate towards betting unders when it comes to season-long props due to the high probability of injury that puts every over at risk.

A study from the Football Outsiders tracking injury data from 2000-2014 shows that a wide receiver has almost a 70% chance to appear on the injury report with around a 40% chance to miss more than one week. For running back, the data is practically identical except they have around a 65% chance to appear on the injury report.

You can also check out some of our season-long prop work from lines released earlier in the season: 

Vikings WR Adam Thielen

Under 1212.5 Receiving Yards (-110)

Thielen is coming off a strong 2018 season where he eclipsed this number fairly easily, finishing the season with 1,373 receiving yards (he even had 1236 yards through his first 13 games).

But it’s unlikely that the 2019 season will go as well thanks to the change in the Vikings offensive philosophy. Last year, the Vikings ran the 4th-most pass plays in the NFL and this year, they are projected to switch to a more run-balanced offense. It’s much the same reason we also like the under on fellow WR Stefon Diggs.
In weeks 1-14, with former offensive coordinator John DeFillipo at the helm, the Vikings ranked 2nd in the NFL in passing percentage, attempting 40.31 passes per game. However, in weeks 15-17, with the new OC Kevin Stefanski, Minnesota ranked 24th in passing percentage, averaging 27.33 pass attempts per game. Albeit a small sample size, those are some drastic splits in play-calling which should lead to a lot less passing volume this year for the Vikings.

Weeks 1-14 on the left. Weeks 15-17 on the right

In Weeks 15-17, when the Vikings averaged 13 fewer pass attempts per game, Thielen went for 2/19, 5/80 and 3/38 for an average of 45.67 yards. That’s a huge drop off from the 95.1 yards per game he averaged in the previous 14 weeks.

The expected shift to a more run-balanced offense is going to hurt his volume. To eclipse the mark of 1,212.5 yards, Thielen would need to average 76 yards per game, and I don’t see that happening with a healthy Dalvin Cook, a first-round pick used on a center, and a new offensive coordinator in run-guru Gary Kubiak.

The Play: Under 1212.5 Receiving Yards (-110). I would play it down to 1200.5 yards.

Lions RB Kerryon Johnson

Over 908.5 Rushing Yards (-110)

It’s fair to say that Kerryon Johnson was underutilized last season, carrying the ball 118 times in 10 games. Among all RBs with at least 100 carries, Johnson ranked T-2nd in yards per carry (YPC) at 5.4.

LeGarrette Blount somehow had 154 totes, averaging a putrid 2.7 YPC.

In Weeks 1-5, Johnson topped out at 47% of the snaps, but once he returned from the bye in Week 7, he saw 59%, 81%, 56%, 71%, & 51% as his coaches realized he was too talented and was too good of a pass blocker to keep on the sidelines. From Weeks 7-11, Johnson ranked 8th in elusive rating, 3rd in breakaway percentage, and 7th in YPC while averaging 13.6 carries and 71 rushing yards per game. If you extrapolate that over a 16-game season, it comes out around 218 carries for 1136 rushing yards.

With a full NFL offseason under his belt and Bount out of the way, I expect Johnson to get off to a much faster start in 2019.

The Lions also let go of offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and replaced him with former Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell. Bevell was the coordinator for Seattle from 2011-2017 and in those years, the Seahawks ranked 12th, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 4th, 16th and 20th in rush attempts. “We’ll always be about running the football” was Bevell’s quote he was hired to the Lions, and the numbers back it up.

Detroit ranked 31st in rush percentage in 2017 and was 19th last year. Additionally, in eight out of his 12 seasons as an offensive coordinator, Bevell has had an RB carry 280+ times in 8 of 12 seasons as a play caller.

Although I don’t expect Johnson to hit the 280 carries, 210-230 totes are realistic. In that range, he would need to average at least 4.4 YPC to eclipse 908.5 rush yards (210 * 4.4 = 924). The venerable Mike Clay has him hitting 1K on 224 carries.

Yes, injuries are always a risk, especially at RB, but this line seems off by at least one game’s worth of rushing stats.

The Play: Over 908.5 Rushing Yards (-110). Would play up to 950.5 yards.

Bears RB Mike Davis

Under 461.5 Rushing Yards (-110)

In his fourth season, Mike Davis was able to eclipse this number by 53 yards last year thanks to a career-high of 112 carries and some injuries to fellow RBs Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny.

In his three previous seasons, Davis had 122 carries total.

The South Carolina product signed with the Bears for a two-year deal worth $6 million, and the Bears traded away Jordan Howard, opening the door to a potential time-share with Tarik Cohen. But then the NFL Draft happened, and the Bears traded up to 73 to draft another RB, David Montgomery. The Bears have talked up his ability to play all three downs.

And don’t forget about Cohen who is locked into 3rd-down duties and also occasionally receives touches on 1st and 2nd down due to his mismatch ability.

He’s a third-string RB who will struggle for touches.

Mike Clay has Davis projected for half of his total (461.5) at 230 rushing yards.

The Play: Under 461.5 Rushing Yards (-110). Would play down to 450.5 yards.

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