Chris Johnson: A Victim of Success

By Jack Delaney
Chris Johnson Free Agent
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

After recording earth-shattering numbers in the 2009 season, running back Chris Johnson has been viewed as one of the most disappointing and overrated players in the NFL. The consensus that Johnson has been a failure in his career, however, is simply untrue.

The lofty expectations that have been placed upon Johnson throughout his career first started after his senior year of college. The future NFL star rushed for 1,423 yards, averaged six yards per carry, scored 17 rushing touchdowns, totaled 528 receiving yards and caught six touchdown passes in his final season with East Carolina University. His legend grew when he ran a 40-yard dash time of 4.24 seconds in the NFL Combine, and he had even more pressure placed upon him when he was drafted as the 24th-overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. While most of the attention for running backs surrounded Adrian Peterson for his 2008 rushing performance of 1,760 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns, Johnson proved that he was worth a first-round pick with 1,228 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns in his rookie year.

His role in the receiving game was diminished in his first NFL season compared to his time in college with 260 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown, but it was clear that Johnson had the potential to become a household name like Peterson.

In 2009, Johnson set the bar so high, that even he would be unable to ever top it. In only his second season, the speedster won the NFL rushing title with 2,006 rushing yards and scored 16-total touchdowns. He averaged an incredible 125.4 rushing yards per game, and Johnson almost doubled his receiving total from the year before with 503 yards. Sadly, the 2009 season would haunt this star for the rest of his time with the Titans. The closest Johnson ever came to matching his monster season was the following year. Although his rushing total of 1,364 yards helped him to finish with the fourth-most rushing yards in 2010, his season was considered a huge disappointment by fantasy football players and the fans in Tennessee.

Over the past several seasons, Johnson’s passion and work ethic have come into question. He was said to have lost the explosive speed that left defenders grasping at air, and his time as the starting running back with the Titans became numbered. It was no surprise that he was recently released as the organization wants to head in a different direction, but the fact that he lost his job is not a knock on his talent. Not only has Johnson played in every single game in five straight seasons, but he has also rushed for at least 1,000 yards since his rookie year. His stats also prove that he has been a dominant force with a career average of 83 rushing yards per game, 4.5 yards per carry, 1327 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns.

An interesting fact to throw into the mix is that Johnson reportedly played most of the 2013 season with a torn meniscus, but he was still was able to finish with 11th-most rushing yards in the league. I know that everyone will think that his numbers are inflated because of his 2009 season, but the simple fact is that Johnson has been a strong player year in and year out.

The 28-year-old running back will probably never lead the NFL in rushing yards again, but he is still talented despite public perception. The next time that you hear Johnson is overrated, look at the whole picture and not just one season.

Jack Delaney is fantasy football writer for You can follow him on Twitter @jackbmore13, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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