Chris Johnson 2014 Value As A Jet
By Jake Ciely
Chris Johnson is a Jet. It took his inevitable release (who were you kidding Titans?) and a few weeks of a few teams’ blasé talks, but Johnson is now in
New York New Jersey. Forget that this is the biggest offseason running back contract, or that there are still concerns over his long-term health, we’re here to talk fantasy value.
By now, you know that the Jets are one of the most run dominant teams in the league. That won’t change in 2014, especially with Geno Smith still needing to grow. For reference, the Jets have averaged 514 rushing attempts per season under Rex Ryan. That’s tops in the NFL.
Last year, we saw a near 50/50 split between Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. We can expect similar this year, which means Johnson won’t approach his 290 yearly carry average. Additionally, Geno Smith accounted for 72 of the Jets 493 carries. A final workload of around 180 carries is reasonable, and that could increase if (when) Chris Ivory misses time.
Johnson hit a career low in Yards Per Carry last year at 3.9 and has a four-year average of 4.18 since his “CJ2K” season. So let’s assume Johnson can get back to 4.2 YPC with a better offensive line. Wait, hold that thought. According to Football Outsiders, the Titans had a slightly better Adjust Line Yards ranking with lesser power run success and a higher Second Level rank. ProFootballFocus rated the Titans offensive line at +20.4 while the Jets checked in at -81.3. So… Johnson isn’t going to a better situation after all. But offensive line ratings change yearly, so to look for a positive outcome, let’s split the difference and say he reaches 4.05 per carry, heck, 4.1 even!
With 180 carries, Johnson rushes for 738 yards. Johnson has averaged 45 catches and 310 receiving yards the last four seasons. Powell had 36 catches for 272 yards for the Jets, so we can give Johnson his four-year average in that he’s the better player. That gives Johnson 225 touches for 1,048 yards. Some have more rushing and less receiving yards for Johnson, but a CJK-year sounds about right for 2014. Chip in 5-6 touchdowns, and Johnson slides in around RB20. That’s honestly higher than I expected, and higher than I’d draft Johnson.
This is all assuming quite a bit, including a bounceback in YPC performance. I’d rather take Andre Ellington’s upside, Ray Rice’s potential for a bounceback year (unless he doesn’t make it on the field) and Ben Tate in Cleveland. These are all running backs in the 18-24 range, and Johnson settles in towards the back. Again, I seriously doubt Ivory plays 16 games (he hasn’t yet), and that would boost Johnson’s value. However, if I am drafting a running back based on upside, I want one leading the way (Ellington, Tate) and not one needing a teammate’s injury. Johnson is a low-end RB2/Flex level running back for 2014.