In the 2009 Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans ran for 2006 yards and promptly gave himself the nickname CJ2K. After that season, he leveraged a big contract and began dancing behind the line, running timid and putting up a pedestrian stat line. This has drawn the ire of fantasy owners who have reached early in the draft to get him as their lead back only to spend the season watching him dance his way into the doghouse.
As a result, many people have started giving him the nickname CJ1K. The common excuse offered up to explain his three years of under performance was the poor play of his offensive line. Looking to remedy this problem, the Titans used the offseason to upgrade their offensive line. In Free Agency they acquired Guard Andy Levitre and Tackle Barry Richardson. In the NFL Draft they used their first round pick on Guard Chance Warmack out of Alabama.
While the Titans new offensive line might have some early issues with chemistry on pass blocking, the run blocking should be able to open ample holes from day one. To hedge their bets for a successful rushing attack the Titans also signed Free Agent Running Back Shonn Greene.
Greene is known for being a physical runner who lacks breakaway speed. In 2008, Johnson shared one half of the tandem Smash and Dash with LenDale White, who is built in the same mold as Greene.
I believe the Titans brought in Greene as their attempt to remake Smash and Dash. Johnson has always been quick yet under sized, allowing him to break big runs that top the highlight reels, but he’s never been the kind of back that moves the pile. The Titans also need a running back who can wear down defenses early or to grind out the clock to preserve a fourth quarter lead. This fits Greene perfectly as does White’s role as goal line back.
I think if we’re going to understand the value of Johnson and Greene in 2013, we need only look back to the first incarnation of Smash and Dash in 2008.
In 2008, Johnson ran for 1,228 yards on 251 carries and added 43 receptions for 260 yards with 10 total Touchdowns. Of course, Johnson as a better understanding of the game in 2013 than he did in his rookie year, so you can expect those numbers to be a little bit better. Still, I think 1500 yards on the ground would be a surprise.
In 2008, LenDale White ran for 773 yards on 200 carries with 15 touchdowns. I think it’s realistic to expect similar numbers out of Greene but 10 to 12 Touchdowns is probably more realistic.
For both Johnson and Greene, these numbers are not bad. They just happen to be less than you are probably willing to reach early for. As a result, I would take Johnson as a low end No. 1 back early in the second round. I would take Greene as a steady if unspectacular No. 3 back around the seventh or eighth round.
Eric Beuning is a Fantasy Football writer for RantSports.com.