Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson has gotten off to a slow start for the second straight season, with a yards per carry average of just 3.3 and only four receptions without a touchdown through four games. The low-point came in Week 4 against the New York Jets, when he had 21 yards on 15 carries along with two catches for 10 yards. Reaction on Twitter from fantasy football owners after that performance prompted a rant via that social media medium from Johnson on Tuesday, but in the overall scheme of things that should have no impact on his performance going forward.
Is Johnson a potential buy-low candidate for fantasy owners right now?
As I mentioned Johnson also started slowly in 2012, totaling just 45 rushing yards over the first three games of the season. But a 141-yard effort against the Houston Texans in Week 4 started a stretch where he had at least 80 yards on the ground in seven out of eight games, including six in a row from Week 6-12 (with a bye in Week 11). Johnson then only had one game with more than 80 rushing yards over the final five weeks, but that did come in a critical week for fantasy owners (122 rushing yards against the Jets in Week 15).
The Titans will be without quarterback Jake Locker (hip) for at least the next few weeks, and Ryan Fitzpatrick will take over as the starter in his absence. So it can be assumed they will run the ball more, and Johnson may again be able to emerge as an option in the passing game (36 catches last season).
Some very tough matchups are coming for Johnson, with the Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers on the slate for next three games. Things then get easier after Tennessee’s bye in Week 8, with the St. Louis Rams (Week 9), Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 10), two games against the Indianapolis Colts (Week 11 and Week 13) and the Oakland Raiders (Week 12) on the schedule.
Johnson’s workload has a chance to be very good while Fitzpatrick starts games for Tennessee, and he did have at least 19 carries in each of the first three games of the season, with 25 carries in both Week 1 and Week 2. But I think his production over the next three difficult games will be strictly based on that potential volume, and if the Titans find themselves trailing significantly in any or all of those games Johnson’s role may dwindle.
Johnson is benchable prior to the Titans’ bye week for owners that can do so confidently as other bye weeks come into play, then there’s a chance he has a resurgence after that point. But by that time it may be too late for his fantasy owners to get any meaningful production out of him, or extract any potential trade value if he is able to produce at a high level.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.