How quickly the mighty fall. From 2008 through 2010, Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson was automatic, leading fantasy football managers to glory week after week.
Last season, however, Johnson failed his owners more often than he rewarded them, particularly murdering title hopes across the board in Weeks 14 through 16 when most fantasy football playoffs are held. By the end of the year, he had 1,047 rushing yards but only four total touchdowns, finishing as the No. 16 running back in fantasy football.
Despite his relatively poor fantasy football output in 2011, however, Johnson was drafted this year as the No. 8 overall player in Yahoo fantasy football leagues. He has rewarded those managers who took the leap of faith on him with one punch to the gut after another.
Through five games, Johnson has a total of 210 rushing yards—141 of which came against the Houston Texans—and no touchdowns, ranking No. 37 in running back fantasy football points. Some of the running backs who have performed better than Johnson so far include such household names as Joique Bell, Shaun Draughn, and Brandon Bolden.
In Week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings, Johnson could only muster up 24 rushing yards—and a lost fumble—on 15 carries.
By now, no fantasy football manager in his or her right mind should be starting Chris Johnson unless forced to by bye weeks. Is it time, though, to consider something even more drastic, like dropping Johnson from your roster?
That’s a tough pill to swallow, given his price tag on Draft Day, but it’s a thought that has crossed many of his owners’ minds.
Looking more closely at the numbers, three of Johnson’s first five opponents—New England, Detroit, and Minnesota—rank among the toughest one-third of NFL teams in fantasy points allowed to running backs. The Vikings, in particular, are second-stingiest in the league.
Johnson’s other two opponents—Houston and San Diego—are somewhere in the middle of the pack, and he ripped the Texans for a big yardage day.
So in Johnson’s defense, he has faced some pretty stiff run defense so far. It doesn’t get much better on Thursday night when he has to contend with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are No. 22 in fantasy points allowed to running backs.
There is hope on the horizon, however.
In Week 7, the Titans face the Buffalo Bills, who allow the 5th-most fantasy points to backs. Weeks 8 and 14 bring games against the Indianapolis Colts—No. 8 in that category.
He still has two games against the Jacksonville Jaguars—third-worst against RBs—but those come in Week 12 and 17, so the second game likely won’t help many fantasy football managers. He faces the New York Jets, who are sixth-worst against running backs, in Week 15, and he gets the aforementioned Texans again in Week 13.
All told, there is some potential down the road—specifically in Weeks 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 17—so dumping Johnson is a bit of a rash decision at this point.
Just make sure you examine all of your options at running back before plugging Johnson into your starting lineup.
He’s not that kind of fantasy football running back anymore.