Chris Johnson: Fantasy Draft Value, Red Flags and Predictions for Titans RB
Go ahead, raise your hand if Chris Johnson helped ruin your fantasy season last year. Don't be shy, I'm raising mine too.
I was convinced the long holdout wasn't going to affect his play last season, and I was getting a bargain at the end of the first round. Boy, was I wrong.
So will the old Johnson return to us this year? Or will we have to suffer through another season where Johnson only rushes for over 100 yards four times?
And after 2011, are you willing to spend a first-round pick on him to find out?
Let's take a look at one of the most interesting running backs for fantasy owners to dissect this season.
When he's on his game, there isn't a more dangerous back in football. The problem was neither he nor the offensive line were on their games last season.
From 2008 to 2010, Johnson compiled a whopping 122 runs of 10 yards or more. Last year, he managed only 27. From 2008 to 2010, he averaged five yards per carry. Last season, he averaged four yards per rush.
I know what you're thinking—how is this a fantasy strength? Those numbers are scaring the crap out of me right now.
The point is that last year, Johnson obviously missed his trademark burst. He came back to the team out of shape, and it showed immediately. He never was able to recover throughout the year, lacking the ability to get through the first line of defenders and break off long runs.
But he also looked tentative at times behind the line, and for much of last year there were indications that the offensive line was simply doing a poor job of blocking, namely in the interior. The addition of Steve Hutchinson at guard should help in that regard, as should a full offseason to work as a unit.
Last season was an aberration. Look no further than his second preseason game, where Johnson scored two touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Bucs and had 46 yards on 10 carries.
Plus, he's rarely injured, he doesn't lose a ton of touches by the goal line and he's a good receiver out of the backfield. And with Jake Locker now the starter, the Titans will probably rely even more on Johnson, meaning he should see a spike in touches.
You may be frightened by his 2011 season, but the fact remains that Johnson is actually still a pretty safe choice for your fantasy team.
Honestly, Johnson's main weakness is that there is the possibility he might put up similar numbers to those he managed last season. For a guy being taken in the first round, that's a pretty scary possibility.
The other concern might be that, despite never being injury prone in the past, Johnson isn't the biggest guy in the world and has logged more than 300 touches in every season except for his rookie year. He's in his physical prime right now, but you can't underestimate the wear and tear an NFL running back suffers.
Just in case you forgot how incredible Johnson was in 2009.
Draft Day Value
Where would you consider drafting Johnson?
There are exactly seven players I would take before Johnson, in this order: Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Calvin Johnson. After that, Johnson would be my guy.
The potential he'll return to his old form is too tempting to pass on, and it doesn't hurt that there are enough other backs recovering from injuries or toiling away in platoons after you get past Johnson on draft boards.
If there's one thing he's proven in the past, he'll stay on the field and he'll get a ton of touches throughout the season. If you believe he has the ability to return to form, he may even turn out to be a late-first round steal for you.
Tweet That Says It All
Adam Schein sure thinks Johnson will rebound in a big way:
Hall says the range for Chris Johnson's rushing yards this year is 1,600-1,700. I totally agree. #TITANS— Adam Schein (@AdamSchein) August 20, 2012
I'm not saying he'll definitely put up those type of numbers, but I'm not denying his potential to do it, either.
|Games||Rush Yards||Rush TD||Receiving Yards||Receiving TD|
I think by now it must be obvious that I like Johnson as a fantasy back this year. I have certain reservations after last season—he's eighth overall in my fantasy rankings and not in my top tier of runners—but there is simply more to like than fear with the explosive runner.
Johnson is too young, too good and too much a focus of the Titans' offense not to recover and put up solid numbers this season. If he's on the board when you pick at the end of the first or beginning of the second round, snatch him up.
CJ2K returns in 2012. Enjoy the ride.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets are cracking like a Ronda Rousey armbar.
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