At what point do we stop starting Tennessee Titans' running back Chris Johnson on the “potential” that he could do something each week?
Unless you are in a PPR league, there is NO way you can comfortably insert Johnson into your starting lineup on a weekly basis. Even as a flex he is questionable.
Yes, you spent the high draft pick on potential. And that was unfortunate on your part. But the theory of “you picked ’em high, start ’em” is flawed. If someone has a better matchup and you know it, you go with the better matchup.
There are very few RBs that are immune to this theory.
Johnson used to be one of them; two years ago for sure, last year because we were naïve. Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, DeMarco Murray, a healthy Darren McFadden and Matt Forte, before Thursday’s injury, all still hold the status of “start ’em no matter what.”
But there is very little through 2011, three 2012 preseason games and one 2012 regular season game — albeit against a stout New England front — that says Johnson is anywhere close to having that status as a reliable starter.
If the four rushing yards on 11 carries in Week 1 were not enough to convince you then how about the fact that he only pulled off double-digit rushing performances on four occasions last season. And those came against the Nos. 30, 25, 6 and 28th ranked rush defenses.
That was a year ago. After one week, all four of those defenses were ranked 21st or worst against the run.
Johnson, who eclipsed 70 yards rushing just four times last season, had eight double-digit fantasy days altogether in 2011, and four of those were 13.2 points or less. Is that what you want from a top-12 pick? Take away the PPR and he drops to five double-digit days.
Now it’s on to San Diego and a Chargers team that was 20th against the run last season. All they did was finish the first week as the sixth-best team against the run, holding Oakland’s Darren McFadden to 32 rushing yards on 15 carries.
McFadden, like Johnson, only salvaged his high-pick status in Week 1 by catching a career-high 13 balls for 86 yards. Johnson did the same, countering the 11 yards on the ground with six catches for 47 yards.
The Titans’ offensive line looked awful against the Patriots and the few chances Johnson did have he danced behind the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Stevan Ridley, was aggressive running through any lane created by the Patriots’ offensive line.
Oh, remember when Johnson was aggressive? But I digress.
There is nothing to suggest that the Titans, who have traditionally been awful on the West Coast — 4-11 since moving to Tennessee in 1997 — can have success running against the Chargers.
Add in that starting QB Jake Locker (shoulder) and starting receiver Nate Washington (leg contusion) are hurting and receiver Kenny Britt (knee/suspension) will be on a limited snap count as he makes his first appearance since Week 3 of 2011 and there are not a lot of positives surrounding the Titans’ camp.
The only saving grace for Johnson will be in PPR leagues as Javon Ringer (elbow) is still out and will not vulture snaps. But if you are banking on starting CJ on just the PPR potential, it’s going to be a long year at your RB1 or 2 spot.
I may be wrong, but I will take being wrong until Johnson can consistently prove he’s right again. I am tired of starting him on “potential” when players like Ridley, Doug Martin, C.J. Spiller, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and even Alfred Morris clearly have better matchups in Week 2.
—Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter