Chris Johnson's Current Price Tag Makes Him Risky Option in Fantasy Leagues

Tim KeeneyContributor IAugust 13, 2014

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 07:  Running back Chris Johnson #21 of the New York Jets celebrates a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts in the second quarter during a preseason game at MetLife Stadium on August 7, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Chris Johnson took the handoff from Michael Vick on a play designed to go right, but when he saw a wall of defenders, he sharply cut left and strolled into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown. It was a nice little run that displayed good vision and solid agility.

And it was another example of why not to overrate anything that happens during the preseason. 

If you take CJ(Insert Your Favorite Variable For a Joke Here)K in your fantasy football league this year, you're immediately putting yourself at a disadvantage. He will be 29 at the start of the season. He'll be sharing carries. He's running behind an iffy offensive line.

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

And worst of all, he's going to cost you a fifth-round pick.

Let's start with the projected workload.

Johnson, who averaged a whopping 290 carries during his six seasons with the Tennessee Titans, isn't expected to come anywhere near that in New York. 

"I definitely think it’s going to be the committee approach," head coach Rex Ryan recently said, via's Rich Cimini. "When you have Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson and Bilal Powell, I would think that’s a pretty safe bet." 

Womp womp. 

The Jets run the ball a lot—last year, players not named Geno Smith or Matt Simms totaled 419 carries—but in a crowded backfield where everyone is going to get a chance, you shouldn't expect to see Johnson surpass 250 carries. 

Now, consider his age. 

Johnson is not only 29, but he has already put significant miles on his legs. His 1,742 career carries is seventh-most among active players. It's not impossible for running backs to be productive at this point in their careers, it's just not common. 

In 2013, one player 29 or older surpassed 1,000 rushing yards: Frank Gore. In 2012, just two such players: Gore and Steven Jackson. In 2011, Michael Turner, Cedric Benson and Willis McGahee reached that mark. In 2010, no one.

Taking it a step further, let's put his age and expected workload into historical context. Only five players 29 or older in the last 10 seasons have received 250 carries or less and tallied at least 1,000 rushing yards. Here's the list, courtesy of

PlayerSeasonAgeRushing AttemptsRushing YardsYPC
Fred Taylor2007312231,2025.39
Willis McGahee2011302491,1994.82
Fred Taylor2006302311,1464.96
Ricky Williams2009322411,1214.65
Mike Anderson2005322391,0144.24

Again, it's not unheard of. But it's not going to happen in this offense. 

The offensive line has some solid pieces in D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. However, Pro Football Focus graded projected starters Willie Colon and Breno Giacomini as "average," and Brian Winters as "poor." 

Combine that with what will be an inconsistent passing game as Geno Smith continues to adapt to the pro game, and running lanes will be few and far between for Johnson. 

Essentially, plays like this will be frustratingly common:

GIF courtesy of Bleacher Report's Erik Frenz

That's not fun to own. 

For a guy who has tallied at least 1,400 yards from scrimmage in each of his six seasons, Johnson receives almost an unbelievable amount of flak. He's not a bad player by any means. He's going to be usable in the fantasy world. 

But considering his recent noticeable lack of explosiveness and less-than-ideal surrounding circumstances, a fifth-round choice makes for terrible value. Especially when players with much higher upsides like Joique Bell and Lamar Miller are being taken after him, as Yahoo! Sports' Brad Evans noted:

If he's healthy, Johnson will add another dimension to the Jets offense, giving them a much-needed boost on that side of the ball. 

But don't assume that means he'll do anything close to the same for your fantasy team. Let someone else deal with the headache.