NFL Fantasy Football: Why Chris Johnson Should Still Be a No. 1 Draft Pick
Chris Johnson should be the No. 1 draft pick in fantasy football leagues.
However, almost everywhere I have looked, CJ2K (he got that name for a reason, if I recall correctly) has slipped to lower spots in the top 10. While consistently placing in the top 10 of practically all fantasy football draft rankings says that the player is doing something right, it seems people aren't believing Chris Johnson can reach his ridiculous numbers of the 2009 season again.
What were those again? Oh yeah, 2,006 yards rushing, 503 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns combined.
Can you say, fantasy football freak?
Remind me, why is this guy falling to the middle of the top 10 in some top fantasy drafts? I fully realize that he surrendered his rushing crown last year to Arian Foster, who had an absolutely fantastic season. I can also admit that CJ had a "down year" with "only" 1,364 and 254 rushing and receiving yards, respectively.
With this in mind, Johnson's team looks a whole lot different than last year's did. Out went Jeff Fisher and Vince Young, and in came Matt Hasselbeck and Mike Munchak. While it's impossible to tell how these moves will fare for the Tennessee organization at this point, it's almost guaranteed that having Hasselbeck under center will be significantly more stable than having Young.
Last year, defenses stacked the box against Johnson and the Tennessee running game. This was because the Titans had Young for quarterback, who could be dangerous at times but was extremely unreliable. This was surely a factor for the drop-off in rushing yards.
While the Titans' receiving corps don't look overwhelmingly different than last season, I cannot stress enough how much having a stable, seasoned veteran at the helm of the offense will help the air game.
With Kenny Britt set to continue upon his impressive statistics from last year and other young receivers vying for a starting job, Hasselbeck and co. should impress compared to 2010 Tennessee's passing offense.
A simple rule in football is that in order to have an effective run game, the offense needs to threaten to punish defenses guilty of stacking the box. Tennessee didn't do that last season, and the rushing yards per game dramatically dropped as a result. Expect Johnson's overall yards to go up this year due to Hasselbeck being the general of the Titans' offense.
At the same time, Jeff Fisher seemingly forgot to utilize CJ2K when it came to running screens or passing the ball to him at all, as he only recorded 44 receptions compared to 50 the year before. While his yards per catch went down tremendously (10.1 in 2009, 5.6 in 2010), this can mainly be attributed to CJ being passed the ball in short-yardage situations or as a last resort.
Expect Munchak to revitalize CJ's receiving role with the team, as he has gone on record saying that he wants to run more screens and similar plays that will allow Johnson to become a more two-dimensional threat. With more targets, more specialized offensive sets and a more stable position at QB, Johnson's receiving yards should improve this season to at least his 2009 level.
Outside of the Tennessee offense, Johnson really has easier opponents to match up against than was the case last season. The Titans are fortunate to boast one of the least difficult schedules in 2011.
This, combined with a chip on his shoulder in wanting to prove he deserves his massive contract granted to him recently, and the improvement in the attack surrounding him should allow Chris Johnson to return to his 2009 form.
If and when all this holds true, those who wisely picked up Chris Johnson with the fourth or fifth pick in their 2011 NFL fantasy football draft will have gotten an absolute steal.
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