You see it happen every year. A person considered a "stud" in fantasy football gets drafted high, only to disappoint. Some of the biggest names in football have suffered through it. Superstars like Randy Moss, Matt Forte, DeSean Jackson, Terrell Owens, and Steve Slaton have all suffered that fate (and that was just in the last 5 years). You can now add Chris Johnson to that list. Johnson was a top 6 pick last year in most leagues and had his worst season in the NFL. The Tennessee Titan finds himself near the top of the rankings once again this year and I will give you the information to help you decide if he should be there or not.
Johnson held out at the beginning of last season and missed training camp before signing his 6 year $55 million contract. When he did make it in, it looked like he was not motivated and had lost some speed. It also seemed that he was not decisive enough on the field and couldn't make defenders miss the way he used to. His rushing totals were the worst in his career across the board. Johnson had 1,047 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns for the 31st ranked rushing team. That was an average of only 4.00 yards per carry and 65 yards per game, his career averages coming in were 4.97 ypc and almost 98 ypg. He did set a career high in receptions with 57 but did not find the end zone once.
Head Coach Mike Munchak has added several players on offense to help make Johnson's life easier. Free agent signee guard Steve Hutchinson brings a fierce attitude and leadership to an offensive line that desperately needs it. In the NFL draft the Titans added Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright to bolster the speed and explosiveness to the offense. The new Tennessee offense will be a run-and-shoot spread formation that will help utilize all the speed on offense and help get the playmakers in open space. That is where Chris Johnson excels. The East Carolina product raised many eyebrows at the NFL combine in 2008 by running a 4.24 40. The Titans drafted him and used a time-share backfield with LenDale White his first year. His second year he was turned loose and he ran for 2,006 yards and a total of 16 touchdowns. His 2,509 total yards also set an NFL record. Johnson re-dedicated himself during the off-season and added about 8 pounds of muscle to make it more difficult to tackle. Chris also stated that he thinks he could beat Olympic Gold Medal winner Usain Bolt in a race. Sounds like his attitude and desire to be the first running back to rush for 2,000 yards is back. Munchak has stated that Johnson looks quick and was making decisive moves and has some speed around the edge.
The stench of uncertainty is around the running backs in all fantasy leagues this year after the top 3 of Foster, Rice, and McCoy are gone. You have several backs coming back from injury like Peterson, Charles, Murray, McFadden, and Mendenhall. The dreaded time-share ruin the possiblities of F Jax, Forte, & Gore. New injuries knock Mathews and Richardson down while old age send S Jax and Turner down. The hold-out of Maurice Jones-Drew and forth-coming suspension of Marshawn Lynch send them down the ranks. Chris Johnson more or less is one of the only ones not on the list still standing. He is one of only a few who you know is the starter and get +250 carries and can stay in on 3rd down.
The run-and-shoot spread offense has led to many great seasons for running backs and Johnson has the speed to be a real threat again this season. With all the playmakers now available on offense, defenses will not be able to stack the box against Johnson the way the used to. The Tennessee Titans have not made the playoffs since 2008 and that really bothers Johnson. He seems to be taking on more of a leader role for this team, and that can only be a good thing. Our own Brian Murphy wrote that he expects a rebound type of year for Johnson similar to Johnson's 2010 year - more than 1,600 total yards and 12 touchdowns. Those are the type of numbers that make Johnson worthy of a top pick. Both FFToolbox.com and MyFantasyLeague.com have Johnson as a top 7 pick and the #4 running back and I agree with those numbers.