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Don't draft Chris Johnson -- trade for him

By Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer

Would you touch Chris Johnson in a draft? (USATSI)
Would you touch Chris Johnson in a draft? (USATSI)

I've spent a lot of time going over Chris Johnson's stats, game film and overall career trajectory. I've dug into the Jets offense and the tendencies of coach Marty Mornhinweg. I'm pretty much at the point where I have a comfortable opinion on CJ1k now that he's with the Jets.

Of all the analysis I've done on Johnson, the three pieces that stick out the most are as follows:

  • Over the last three years he has averaged 12.8 Fantasy points per game in his final 10 games of the season. And in his first six games in each of those years he's delivered 6.8 Fantasy points on average. For as fast as he is, he sure starts slow.
  • Johnson has posted 15-plus carries in 29 games over the last three seasons. When given that much work he's had 18 games with 10-plus Fantasy points and 21 games with nine-plus Fantasy points (standard leagues). Those are pretty good averages.
  • Over the 12 years Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has had a hand in calling plays, a running back has split the workload, be it by choice or by injury, a grand total of three times. Mornhinweg has been blessed to work with great running backs, especially Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia. Even with the Jets suggesting a one-two punch it's possible, if not likely, that Mornhinweg will stick with Johnson once he truly gets going.

There are negatives too: The Jets' O-line is a weakness, their schedule is not a cakewalk and Chris Ivory will at the very least play the role of Shonn Greene/LenDale White/touchdown vulture extraordinare.

But those don't even matter compared to this one: Johnson has, in my opinion, delivered an inconsistent effort over the past three seasons. Some weeks he slacked and still found his way to double-digit Fantasy numbers. Some weeks he really looked like he was trying and just couldn't get stats. And that is the scariest part about evaluating Johnson -- you just don't know when he'll flip the switch (Week 9 last year against St. Louis) and when he won't (Week 3 vs. San Diego).

In terms of Fantasy, I'm a little nervous about drafting him after all. I'll do it if the price is right -- maybe Round 5, definitely Round 6. Because let's be honest, he does have 1,100-yard, six-touchdown potential and there just aren't a ton of backs who have that when you get to Round 5/6. I like him as a Flex and maybe even as a low-end No. 2 Fantasy running back in standard leagues (he is one in PPR).

But my real game plan is to not draft Johnson -- it's to trade for him. That mid- to late-season track record of his is just too rich to ignore. Plus we'll get an idea of just how much the Jets are using him, how effective he and Ivory are together and how much effort he's putting in. If everything looks right by the time Week 5 rolls around, I'll deal for him, saving myself the worry of drafting him too soon and the potential slow start/splitting of reps. It's the safest play with one of the most boom-or-bust players in Fantasy this year.

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