There are plenty of reasons to like Chris Johnson for the 2010 season, but before you go crowning his ass lets find out if we know who we think he is. Coming into the 2009 season we knew Johnson had the talent to run wild. The first time I knew CJ was a freak was in the 2008 obligatory Detroit Lions Thanksgiving beat down. He took it to them and looked like a man among physically stunted wombat-boys. Of course the question coming into the ’09 season was if he would lose carries to LenDale (not important enough to have a nickname) White. But that was answered emphatically and now the only question is, can he be totally radically awesome 2 years in a row?
What are the odds that Johnson once again leads the fantasy world in fancy pants fantasy points next season? First off I’d like to thank Jeff Fisher for not putting Vince Young in earlier, which probably kept the Titans out of the playoffs and kept CJ from getting beat up for a game or two more. But even with that reprieve, he still carried the ball a shizz-ton which is only a smidge under a shat-ton. He ran the ball a total of 358 times and that was without the benefit of White taking the tough goal line yards for him (yeah, I know we want him to have those, but we also want him to stay healthy! It’s one of those conundrums like the scuba diver in the forest). So do we have to get into magic numbers and irritating statistical run downs? Not if you don’t want to, jeez! You can find an arse-ton of articles on overuse of running backs, but the bare boned facts are that backs who rush for 2,000 yards don’t have great following years. Of course the sample size is extremely small since CJ became only the 6th back to ever do it! The good news is that out of all the 2,000 yard rushers he has the fewest number of touches coming off his 2k season and is the second youngest by 4 days. Here are the members of the 2,000 club and the age they were when they broke 2k and the total number of carries they had after doing so. I’m guessing that all these dudes sold their soul to the devil and will be outed by the 700 Club any day now. Well, O.J. may have already been outed.
Eric Dickerson: 24 years, 3 months, 8 days 769 carries/72 rec
Chris Johnson: 24 years, 3 months, 12 days 609 carries/93 receptions
Jamal Lewis: 24 years, 4 months 1,004 carries/100 receptions
Terrell Davis: 26 years, 2 months 1,343 carries/152rec
O.J. Simpson: 26 years, 5 months, 8 days 1,108 carries/94 rec
Barry Sanders: 29 years, 5 months, 6 days 2,719 carries/315 rec
If I had to draw any comparison to CJ it would be Eric Dickerson. They have similar numbers at the same age and they have similar running styles. Saying that CJ will somehow repeat the numbers of ED is foolish. But I can say that CJ is young and that his chances of another great season are better than him not having one. Yes, he could break something and be a total bust, but not because he has 609 carries under his belt, it would probably have something to do with a 400 pound monstrosity landing on top of him. Remember, a can of green beans can break your toe people!
When looking at the top running backs for next season we have a top tier of four that I will feel good owning: CJ, Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew. But CJ is my clear #1. When I watch him follow his blockers rather than trying to run through them like Adrian Peterson does, I like his chances of staying healthy even more than Peterson. But I do have an aversion to just grabbing the #1 guy from the year before. Will Johnson go for 2,000 yards again? Probably not, but he doesn’t need to break records to be the best fantasy back in 2010. But how often do running backs repeat their #1 status? Let’s take a look-see at the best running backs from 2000 on:
2000 Marshall Faulk, 2001 Marshall Faulk, 2002 Priest Holmes, 2003 Priest Holmes, 2004 Shaun Alexander, 2005 Shaun Alexander, 2006 LaDainian Tomlinson, 2007 LaDainian Tomlinson, 2008 DeAngelo Williams, 2009 Chris Johnson, 2010 ?
As you can see it isn’t a stretch to think that a running back can repeat his fantasy dominance. Vince Young keeps defenses more honest than Collins can and we should get a whole season of him keeping CJ free from over-molestation (what degree of molestation do you prefer?) I just cannot see any reason to not grab Johnson early and often.