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What a difference a year makes. Last year Chris Johnson was the golden boy of every fantasy draft, number one on almost everyone’s board. Whoever was able to land him first was ecstatic, knowing they were going to have a guy who would score at least 15 points per game, with the potential for much more. And why wouldn’t they expect this? Johnson was coming off a season in which he broke the NFL record for all-purpose yards and recorded the 6th 2,000-yard rushing season in NFL history. But Johnson’s 2010 campaign was not quite up the incredibly high standards his fantasy owners had set after his historical 2009 campaign.
Though he wound up with over 1300 yards and 11 touchdowns, his yards per carry went down from 5.6 to 4.3. While he had several big games, unlike the year before he also had many mediocre ones, having games of just 5 (yes that’s five yards), 39, 34, 58, 53, 59, and 66 yards. In those 7 games he recorded a grand total of two touchdowns. For a fantasy owner getting no production out of your number one overall pick in almost half of his games can be crippling to a team.
One reason for this decline in production could be a less effective team. The Titans had instability and inconsistency from the quarterback position all season. This combined with the fact that teams were now game planning solely on stopping Chris Johnson when the Titans were on offense may have caused Johnson’s decline in production.
As the 2011 season approaches Chris Johnson is currently holding out for a new contract. Once he gets what he wants he will return to a team with a new look at quarterback after the signing of veteran Matt Hasselbeck and the drafting of Jake Locker in the first round. However Locker is not NFL ready and Hasselbeck is coming off a down year, and both come to an offense that still lacks a big receiving threat.
But the big questions surrounding Johnson are: when will he get back, and how long will it take for him to get up to speed? Because of the lockout players haven’t practiced for as long and as a result we are seeing a higher prevalence of injuries. While Johnson has likely trained on his own this off-season, there is a big difference between training with and without pads and contact. So when he does come back most likely he will have a limited role on the offense to start, and could be more susceptible to injury. Once he gets over this start he will most likely play at the same level he played in 2010, some great games some not so great. Because until Tennessee upgrades its other skill positions on offense, Chris Johnson will be the number one target of every team they play.