Goodbye, Chris Johnson
Posted Sep. 25 at 04:33 PM
Normally, this would be a column about how you shouldn't give up on your starters -- that even poor performers have a way of bouncing back, and you have to be patient early in the year. I'd use some timely examples and some stats and conclude that you should give your strategy a chance to work. And, with few exceptions, I'd be absolutely right.
But this column is going to about one of the exceptions.
If you drafted Chris Johnson, I feel for you. I get why you did it and the rationale made sense. He's a great talent and has proven it with a 2,000-yard campaign. But now, just three weeks into the fantasy season, you'd have to be awfully thin at running back to keep him in your starting lineup.
The Titans put up 437 yards of offense and Johnson accounted for less than 30 of them: He had 14 carries for 24 yards and a five-yard catch. That's it. His long run was 13 yards, which means the other 13 carries went for 11 yards. I don't care how many near-misses he had, or close plays, or how bad the offensive line was or if the defense keyed on him. He was less than 7 percent of the team's offense.
But that's just one game -- one awful, embarrassing game. Sure, it's easy to pick on a back when he only accounts for 29 yards of offense, but what about the week before? Well, in week 2, Johnson accounted for... 28 yards of offense. Week 3 was actually an offensive improvement. Funny, isn't it? Maybe, unless you drafted him or committed auction dollars to him. Then it's just frustrating.
But wait, you say. What about week 1? He had 51 yards of offense -- not good, but not an unthinkable disaster. But that includes 11 carries for four yards. Four. On the year, he has a 1.4 yards per carry average, no touchdowns and one temper tantrum where he called out his offensive line.
He's so far removed from his stellar 2009 season that if you gave him the ball three times in 2012, he still wouldn't match his average on just one carry back then. While nobody expects him to match that 5.6 yards-per-carry average, it's been declining ever since (4.3 YPC in 2010 and 4.0 YPC in 2011) and he barely topped 1,000 yards last year. Now it seems the wheels have come off completely, and after just three games fantasy owners can't start him with any degree of confidence.
They can't trade him, either. What could he bring? Kendall Hunter? A random Steeler runner? Tim Tebow? A replacement referee? Maybe Ronnie Brown, who wasn't even active this past Sunday. But you could argue that Brown can't hurt you if you know he's not playing, so that might actually be an advantage over Johnson. So trading him is out and starting him takes more guts than I can recommend. So what can Johnson owners do?
Nothing, really. Just stash him away on your roster. Cutting him doesn't punish anyone but you, and won't make you feel any better. If you happen to get a decent trade offer from someone who thinks they're buying low, consider it. Otherwise, give him the roster spot and move on. If he has a great game down the road, try to trade him. If he has a good game, try to trade him. If he has a decent game, try to trade him.
Am I being too harsh? Not really. This is as dramatic a decline as you could imagine from a starter who isn't injured. Is it regret on my part? No; I don't have him in any leagues. Am I being too pessimistic? I doubt it. His fantasy playoff schedule includes the Jets and Packers -- not fear-inducing but not enticing, either. Before that they face Houston twice, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Miami. In other words, the Titans don't play the Rams every week.
You can't give up on your starters after three weeks of the season... unless they've given up on you. In this case, it would take more than one good week for Johnson to earn a spot in your starting lineup, and there aren't that many great match ups. Now, he might go off on your bench. That's always a possibility. But a 180-yard, three touchdown performance in week 9 isn't worth eight weeks of misery. This is an exception to a long-standing rule: In week 4, it's time to move on.
Youtube Clip of the Week: Regardless of his struggles, don't let anyone tell you Johnson isn't talented. Take a stroll through memory lane here.
Are you sticking with Johnson? Do you see any reasons for optimism? Share your thoughts below.
Posted by DANA DUFFIELD | Sep. 25 at 07:39 PM
Had him last year, got burned, never trust him again. He has no motivation and blames everybody else. He teased in the preseason but is back to his true colors
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | Sep. 25 at 07:51 PM
Traded him for Jamaal Charles in my dynasty league last March. Fretted all summer, but feeling good about it this week.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Sep. 26 at 06:07 AM
Have him in a league that does not allow trades (not that I could get anything for him anyway). He'll be glued to my bench and I'll be writing Ian this week to try and find out what he was thinking when he ranked him #5 overall in standard leagues as of August 30th.
Posted by MICHAEL HAMER | Sep. 26 at 07:16 AM
I traded for him last year - and will never draft him in the future. Brings up an interesting topic: Which player(s) will you refuse to draft due to past experience? I remember vowing never to draft: Barry Sanders, any Denver (Shanahan) RB, and Reggie Bush.
Posted by Rod Prieto | Sep. 26 at 06:54 PM
Traded CJzeroK away last week for Ahmad Bradshaw and Justin Blackmon already knowing Bradshaw was sitting on Thursday. I still think I came out way ahead. I got lucky with an owner who was still thinking it was 2009.
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