Fantasy Football Focus: Chris Johnson Went AWOL

By Cooper Allen
April 06, 2012 10:59 am
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Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson has had a very interesting career to say the least. Johnson was projected to go in either the second or third round in the 2008 NFL draft before running a 4.24 40-yard dash. His combine performance warranted a first-round grading as he was taken 24th overall by the Titans.


Johnson’s rookie year saw him finish second in AP rookie of the year voting to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. He also formed the “smash and dash” duo with LenDale White and was named to the 2009 Pro Bowl.

Going into his second season, Johnson changed his nickname to “every coach’s dream” and became one of only six players to rush for over 2,000 yards. He also broke Marshall Faulk’s record for yards from scrimmage with 2,509 in total.

Now referred to as “CJ2K”, Johnson was named offensive player of the year and made the Pro Bowl for the second straight season.

After another solid season in 2010, which included over 1,300 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns and a third consecutive Pro Bowl, Johnson went downhill in 2011 and disappointed many fantasy football owners.

There are several factors that could have contributed to Johnson’s lack of production in 2011. This article will highlight a few of those factors and debate what the ultimate reason was.  

The lockout was a painful time for football fans. It was lifted briefly around the time of the draft; however there was no free agency until late in the summer and the Hall of Fame game was cancelled.

Players were not allowed into team facilities, could not see team doctors or be in contact with the coaches. This is an excuse that could be made for rookies and players that switched teams, but Reggie Bush was traded after the lockout and he did just fine in his new role.

Another factor that could have contributed to CJ2K’s “off” year is that Tennessee brought in a new coach (Mike Munchak) and two new quarterbacks (Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker).

Former quarterbacks Vince Young and Kerry Collins signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts respectively leaving Johnson in a new offense. Then again, Reggie Bush was in a new offense and Cedric Benson had a rookie quarterback, but they both finished with more yards than Johnson. 

After recording 4,598 rushing yards and making three Pro Bowls in his first three seasons, Johnson decided that it was time for a new contract. CJ and the Titans front office went back and forth in negotiations that went on through preseason.

Johnson was offered a ton of money, but he decided that he wanted to be the highest-paid running back in the league. After not going to practice or playing in preseason, the team caved and gave him a four-year deal worth $53 million will 31 of it guaranteed.

So what was the problem? How can a guy go from 2,000+ yards and 14 touchdowns to barely 1,000 and four touchdowns just two years later? Money and selfishness. If he was really concerned about his performance and the success of his team, he wouldn’t have held out nor would he have made a big deal about being the highest paid running back in the game.

In 2012, fantasy owners can expect a bit more from Chris Johnson. He may add on a couple more touchdowns, but he will not go back to his 2009 self and is not a first-round pick.  

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