The 2011 season was not a great one for Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson. Despite the fact that he got a rich new contract after a lengthy holdout last offseason, Johnson ran with little enthusiasm or effort to start the season causing some to give up on him, myself included.
The truth is I became so frustrated and felt so betrayed by Johnson’s pitiful performance, he became the top player on my personal dead to me list. I no longer wanted him on my team or in my lineup. After all in the first eight games of the season, Johnson averaged just 45 rushing yards per game, while also adding 27 receptions for an average of 20 receiving yards per game.
The real killer though was that Johnson had scored just one touchdown up to that point in the season. Personally, the last straw for me was when Johnson had a dream matchup against the woeful Colts, who were giving up fantasy points to everyone and I literally mean everyone. But what did Johnson do in this week 7 encounter? 14 carries for 34 yards to go along with three catches for 17 yards.
Really!!?? I thought to myself as I yelled many choice words at Johnson as the Colts routinely stuffed him for minimal gains. So I traded him away and honestly did not care what I got in return at that point I simply never wanted to see the name Chris Johnson in my lineup ever again!!
Well, this is one example where the fantasy universe was against me cause as soon as Johnson was dealt from my team, he started to be a respectable fantasy option again, as he averaged 127 yards and scored three touchdowns over the final seven games of the season. Because of this run and the fact that he caught 57 passes over the course of the season, he actually finished ninth among PPR running backs with a total of 223.5 fantasy points according to four-downs.com.
Yes, when it was all said and done, the man who tormented my fantasy team for eight weeks finished up as a top-10 running back, which angered me on many levels but also got me thinking about the poor decision I made in haste out of anger.
If Johnson could finish in the top 10 after such a terrible start to the season, what will he do this season with a complete offseason and full training camp to get acquainted with offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, who replaced the departed Mike Heimerdinger?
A recent article by ESPN Insider K.C. Joyner talks about how Heimerdinger used counter plays with Johnson and how last season Palmer started out doing very few counter plays before finally started to re-incorporate the counter plays over the second half of the season. When that happened, the run blocking improved as did Johnson’s effort.
Thus, the growing pains that Johnson suffered in Palmer’s new offensive system in 2011 should not return in 2012 and with a full offseason together, Palmer should have a much better feel for the types of run’s Johnson requires to be successful.
With that in mind, a case can easily be made for Johnson as the no.4 running back entering the 2012 NFL season in point per reception formats. While I would certainly take Ray Rice, Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy over Johnson, there are no others that should go ahead of him.
Look at the competition: Ryan Matthews is injury prone, Maurice Jones-Drew is threatening to holdout, Darren Sproles will be without Sean Payton, Matt Forte is coming off an injury and now has to deal with TD vulture Michael Bush being behind him on the depth chart.
So when you break it down scientifically, (and put all vendetta’s aside) Johnson looks primed to bounce back in a big way this season and should be a top-6 selection in all point per receptions leagues.