It seems like every year fantasy football players can’t help but detest Chris Johnson. I honestly don’t know why everyone hates Johnson. The only explanation I can think of is that expectations for him are too high, especially with a nickname like CJ2K.
Since his 2009 season of over 2,500 combined yards and 16 total TDs, he simply hasn’t been able to live up to the hype. I recently mentioned why Joique Bell is a steal this year and why Shane Vereen is a low-cost, high-upside RB. Johnson is another oft forgotten RB who has sneaky good value in the middle rounds of the draft. Look at his stats following his record-breaking season in 2009.
From 2010 to 2013, Johnson has averaged almost 1,500 combined yards and eight total TDs per season. Almost as impressive as Johnson’s production is his durability, as he has missed only one game during his six years in the NFL.
It seems that there are two big concerns people have about drafting him in 2014. The first concern is how much usage he’ll get with his new team situation. The New York Jets signed Johnson to a two-year, $4 million deal this offseason following his release from the Tennessee Titans. Johnson will have to work harder this year as the Jets have room to improve an offensive line which ranked 26th in the league last year.
But overall New York is a great fit for Johnson. While he will split time with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, I think Johnson is the clear lead back. Neither Ivory nor Powell has recorded a 1,000-yard season much less 2,000 yards, and both have suffered a plethora of injuries that have kept them off the field. Furthermore, the Jets were the fourth-most run-heavy team in the NFL last season, passing on just 51.67 percent of plays. Johnson should get plenty of work.
The other concern is whether Johnson still has the skills and ability to produce yards and TDs. Despite a strong season overall, his 2013 rushing YPC was a career low of 3.9. Does Johnson still have the physical abilities that allowed him to rush from 2,000 yards in 2009?
It was recently reported that Johnson played through a lingering knee injury last season. He underwent meniscal repair surgery this offseason performed by the famed Dr. James Andrews. Assuming his recovery goes as planned, this minor knee surgery should get Johnson back to full health and production.
His current ADP is in the fifth or sixth round, which is about right given the concerns. There is definitely more risk in drafting Johnson this season with the uncertainties regarding his knee’s recovery and the RB situation in New York. However, the upside is still there.
It will be important to monitor Johnson’s knee recovery and watch the Jets during training camp and preseason to get a better idea of how much usage he will see. But if you end up drafting a couple of elite WRs along with a stud QB or TE in the early rounds of your draft, Johnson can still perform as a solid RB2 this year.