Chris Johnson gets all the heat for being a first-round fantasy bust, and rightfully so.
Johnson has been downright terrible. The use of the lockout is long gone. The excuse of the contract holdout is long gone. He has just been awful at giving fantasy players a return on their investment.
In Athlon’s half-PPR scoring format, the Tennessee RB has hit double-digits just twice (against Cleveland and Pittsburgh) and is ranked 24th in scoring among fantasy running backs.
When the Titans played host to Indianapolis and its 31st-ranked rush defense Sunday and Johnson came away with just 34 yards on 14 carries, that was the last straw for many in the fantasy world. Yes, his offensive line is consistently poor at creating space for Johnson. He is getting killed in the backfield when he gets the ball, he is finding no lane to run in when they run to the right or left. But that doesn’t mean anything for fantasy owners. It is the back they are looking to the points for, not the offensive line.
Johnson has been held to 34 yards or less in four games, had 53 and 51 in two others and eclipsed 100 just once when he ran for 101 on 24 carries against Cleveland. His two longest runs are 25 (against Cleveland) and 21 (against Pittsburgh). The 27 receptions for 160 yards are the ONLY things saving Johnson from being nothing more than a bye-week replacement or a flex play you hesitate to plug in your roster.
For the first time since October 2009, CJ saw his backup have more carries than he had. Javon Ringer, who seems to find running room that Johnson can’t. Ringer went from 21 combined carries over the first five games to 14 in Sunday’s win. He rushed for 60 yards and added five catches for 42 yards.
Both backs are averaging under 4 yards per carry. Johnson is 107-for-302 at 2.8 per carry, while Ringer is 35-for-122 at 3.5 yards per carry.
Coach Mike Munchak has not said the Titans will promote Ringer to No. 1 or even go with a straight RBBC, but it’s worth noting it was Ringer in there in the fourth quarter against Indianapolis and he was the back that started on two of the team’s scoring drives.
So what do we do with CJ?
He is not worth dropping, but he’s also no better than the lowest end RB2 (as evidenced by being ranked 24th in scoring). Yes, he is pitiful as a first-round pick, but he’s still playable as am RB2 or flex. That ranking of 24 will drop quickly, however, if there becomes more of a committee in Tennessee. But I just don’t see the Titans benching a $53 million man.
The schedule does lighten up for the Titans, particularly for their running backs. Of course, that is still a week away.
The Titans face a Cincinnati team that is fifth best against fantasy backs and has allowed just one 100-yard rusher and only six rushing touchdowns. Starting in Week 10, Tennessee plays Carolina (32nd), Atlanta 16th ) and Tampa Bay (22nd), all teams in the bottom half of the league against fantasy backs.
By Corby Yarbrough, @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter