If you owned the Titans' Chris Johnson in fantasy for the 2009 season, you probably won your league. It was an "LT-esque" year for the then second year back, single handily defeating opponents each game.
Just look at his stat line: 2,006 YDS, 5.6 YPC, 14 TD // 50 REC, 503 ReYDS, 2 ReTD
Johnson was most likely the number one player selected in drafts of 2010, and while he wasn't a world beater he did finish in the top 20 overall at season's end.
Then the holdout came in the 2010 off-season. Johnson wanted to be the highest paid running back in league history - call it what you will. The first three years of his career were unparalleled at the time, and the Titans literally had no other weapons on offense.
Most people recall how the holdout ended, needless to say it hampered the start to his 2011 season. He ended up with over a thousand yards, but only broke 100 yards rushing four times, and scored only four rush TD. Laying a bunch of eggs for fantasy owners expecting to see the "most-worthiest" RB in NFL history to produce.
Johnson was lambasted all last year. Pundits, writers, fantasy owners, and NFL fans declared him a charlatan - now that he was paid the cover was blown off.
But that can't be the case - you don't rush for over 4,500 yards in your first three seasons if you're a hack pretending.
Heading into this year we all expected, well demanded a redemption. The back with dreads needed to channel some inner Marley and redeem himself. Yet his start to the 2012 season speaks for itself - he has 45 yards rushing in three games. It's terrible.
You might ask where does social media play into this? For about 13 straight months Johnson's twitter feed has been filled with sporadic comments such as:
"You have more dogs than you had rushing yards Sunday."
"Guaranteed declared bankruptcy 5 years outta the league"
That's just on Johnson's twitter feed, head out further into the interwebs or on TV and you'll see some heavy criticism. Some legit about his performance, some way over the line, but such is life.
One can only wonder - does our constant badgering of his performance & prior holdout through the internet and on the airwaves impact his ability to play on the field?
The answer might be yes. I think that finally the criticisms from fantasy and pundits alike have impaired Johnson's ability to run the ball like he used to.
I'm not trying to make any sort of an excuse, I've been burned the worst of any of you Chris Johnson owners. I took him #1 overall in a legacy draft in 2009. I've had to deal quite personally with his rapid decline in production each year since the fabled 2K season. So trust me when I say I'm not making excuses for him.
We're in such a developed and evolving time. 20 years ago fantasy football was played through in person drafts and point tallies crafted by hand. 15 years ago fantasy just started to go online. 10 years ago all the major sports players threw their hats into the ring by hosting leagues.
Now it's an industry boasting over 20 million players and is estimated to be worth a billion dollars.
Imagine of 20 million people and a billion dollar industry thought you were pure garbage. And after a bad game members of that industry told you directly (twitter/facebook) how bad you stunk, and how T.O. is a better financial planner than yourself. It would have an effect, at somepoint.
I'm not ready to dole out blame to the Titans' offensive line either. Their head coach was a great offensive lineman, they have stalwart tackles on the outside, one of the best guards to play in the 2000's in Steve Hutchinson, and Leroy Harris & Duece Lutui aren't lackeys.
The Titans put up 44 points this week - Johnson lost yards in overtime. He's not in the game, he's not the same player, and while I can't say his terrible performances are directly attributed to the criticisms levied against him, I do think they've had a significant impact.
And I don't know of any other player I could say this about. Ladies and gentlemen, we may have taken our first victim.