The New York Jets have added notable free agents at quarterback (Michael Vick) and wide receiver (Eric Decker) this offseason, and they added another recognizable name by signing running back Chris Johnson to a two-year deal this week. The Jets had a top-10 rushing offense in 2013 (134.9 yards per game; sixth), but Johnson brings versatility and big-play potential that the team has lacked.
Johnson is obviously a recognizable name for fantasy football owners, with a 2,000-yard rushing season on his resume in 2009 and four straight seasons with at least 1,400 offensive yards since then. He averaged a career-low 3.9 yards per carry last season, which could be blamed on a knee issue that required surgery after the season, but Johnson will turn 29 early next season and has over 1,700 carries in his career.
The Jets look likely to use a timeshare in their backfield, with Johnson and Chris Ivory taking the lead roles. Does Ivory still have value for fantasy owners in 2014 with Johnson in the mix?
Injuries have been an issue for Ivory during his career, and he battled hamstring and ankle issues at different points last season. But he played 15 games in his first season with the Jets, and finished with 833 rushing yards on 182 carries with three touchdowns on the ground. Ivory had a fairly productive run from Week 9-Week 16 (seven games) last season, as he averaged 83 rushing yards per game (60 or more yards six times) with all three of his touchdowns over that span. Bilal Powell is a more capable pass catcher, and had more touches than Ivory in 2013 (212; 176 carries and 36 catches), so Johnson will presumably step into a similar role next season.
The additions the Jets have made should yield better offensive production, and theoretically more opportunities for those that have prominent roles. Ivory should be the team’s primary goal line and short yardage back at minimum, and I don’t see his workload dropping dramatically compared to 2013. Concerns about his durability will put a ceiling on his fantasy value, but Ivory has solid upside in touchdown-heavy formats and I think he’ll be worth drafting as a RB4 or RB5 in standard scoring leagues.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter.