Does Chris Johnson Still Have Fantasy Value?
Chris Johnson went from unanimous fantasy all-star to, uh, some other guy. He used to be a lock as a Top Five pick, but now he's often not found in the Top 20 running backs. He finished as the No. 8 running back in standard fantasy leagues last year (surprised?), but a lot of those numbers came from big plays by one of the NFL's fastest. He signed with the Jets in the offseason and should compete with a minimum of Chris Ivory for carries. How much value does the man formally known as CJ2K really have left?
Well, we all know Johnson is a game-breaker. There is a certain level of excitement that comes from seeing Chris Johnson on your fantasy roster. You know that, at any second, you could see "Chris Johnson runs for a 75-yard touchdown" because that's just how he is. Johnson isn't really a threat after contact, however. Eric Decker is also a new member of the Jets, which could open up the field a little bit for Johnson to get out in space.
Come opening day, I do expect Johnson to start over Ivory. Ivory should get most of the goal-line work, however, so Johnson's TD totals will likely take a hit. Johnson is also fairly effective in the passing game (42 catches and four receiving TDs last year), and Geno Smith strikes me as a quarterback who will (and should) check down to his running backs often. Expect Johnson to assume a role similar to Bilal Powell last year but with more talent.
Football.com's Senior Analyst Jake Ciely currently has Johnson ranked as the 23rd running back as of his most recent rankings. I think 25th is around the floor for Johnson, or the lowest ranking that Johnson should finish in 2014. If Johnson earns the majority of the carries, I could see that ranking going up to about 15th. Johnson is a very tricky player to analyze and, for that matter, draft. He is often inconsistent, but always has the ability to have huge games even with a less-than-average amount of touches. Drafting Johnson really depends on whether or not you have room for a make-or-break player on your roster. If after four or five rounds you find yourself confident in your players' ability to produce consistently each week, then maybe take a chance on Johnson and hope he returns to form. If your roster thus far consists of make-or-break players themselves (e.g. Cam Newton, Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson), then Johnson is probably best to avoid.