Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans RB
Chris Johnson was a big disappointment last year and many fantasy owners who took him as a top five pick or paid a good price for him in auction leagues suffered the consequences. He simply did not produce to the level that many expected. Some questioned his offensive line, others said it was Johnson’s lack of conditioning and some just said Johnson was not motivated after getting that big contract. There were countless times where Johnson went down with ease and avoided contact, something was off and at the end of the 2011 season, Johnson finished with just 1,047 rushing yards and 4 TD’s.
We step into 2012 and early reports are that CJ1K (no longer 2k) is motivated, is getting back into top shape and is ready to have a bounce back season. All that is fine and skippy, but can we really trust Johnson after he burnt so many last year and looked like he wasn’t giving it his all last season?
I was one who avoided Johnson last year because watching him down the stretch in 2010, it looked like he was worn down. I think Johnson’s 2011 season was a result of two straight seasons in 2009 and 2010 of 300+ carries and 350+ touches. He was simply overworked. Jeff Fisher did not trust Vince Young to throw the football and leaned very heavily on Johnson to carry the team. The lockout also hurt Johnson going into 2011 as he wasn’t fully conditioned because he wasn’t training as hard as he should have been. Overall, I just think CJ1K just wasn’t fully ready, mentally and physically, for the grind of a whole season and it showed in his performance. There may have been some lack of effort, but I think that came from his lack of conditioning. But Johnson will be more prepared this season and as indicated before, early reports are positive.
Johnson will have some good value in ’12. He will improve on his 2011 numbers and have somewhat of a bounceback season. His days of running for 2k are over, but he should fall somewhere in the middle between 1 and 2k. I would expect anywhere between 1300-1700 total yards from Johnson with 10+ TD’s, returning him to No.1 RB status once again. At the end of the day Johnson is still a bit of a risk, but in this case, the reward outweighs the risk.
Trent Richardson – Cleveland Browns RB
Trent Richardson will be one of this year’s sexiest picks. He is being touted as the best RB prospect to come out since Adrian Peterson. If you want him, you’re going to have to spend much and draft high. Richardson is a combination of speed, power and agility, he also displays soft hands and should be valuable in PPR leagues. He is the clear cut No.1 back in Cleveland and could get 300+ carries his rookie season. Everything sounds like if you select him, you’re going to reap the benefits early and often.
Let’s take a couple things into account before we get too emotional with Richardson. He does play in the AFC North and that means four games against two of the best and most physical defenses in the league in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The Bengals are also an up and coming defense as well. The Browns also are a very anemic team offensively who will start a rookie QB this year in Brandon Weeden. The Browns receiving corps is one of the worst in the league. This will mean plenty of carries for Richardson, but probably not a ton of production. The TD’s will be lacking. There probably will be a good amount of 20+ carry 80-90 yard rushing games. Think Steven Jackson type numbers, lots of touches and a decent to good amount of yards, but few TD’s.
Richardson is clearly very talented, but his team is lacking other playmakers offensively which will have teams gearing up to stop him. Playing against the Steelers and Ravens four times will not help his production either. He is still a good selection in all formats, but he’s probably not going to be worth the price you will have to pay for him this season. In Dynasty leagues it makes more sense to pay the premium he will go for.
Darren Sproles – New Orleans Saints
Darren Sproles came to New Orleans last year and had the best season of his career. He made Reggie Bush an afterthought by producing over 1,300 total yards and finishing with 9 TD’s. Sproles was a huge part of the offense, despite the fact that he shared the backfield with Pierre Thomas, rookie Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory. The smallest guy of the bunch proved to be the most durable. His small stature and shiftiness makes him hard to really lay a good shot on. Sproles was not just a factor in the passing game he was a force in the run game as well rushing for 600 yards and averaging almost seven yards per carry.
Sproles had previously never finished with over 1,000 total yards, his highest total came in 2009 when he had around 800 total yards as a Charger. So should we expect that same amount of production again in this crowded backfield? Was last season just an outlier?
Sproles needs to be heavily targeted again in PPR leagues and definitely considered in all other formats. Playing with Drew Brees and that system, there is so much opportunity for him to excel. He may not have the season he had last year, but then again he could even improve on the numbers from last season. Over 1,500 total yards and 10+ TD’s is not out of the question. At the very least you’re looking at over 1,000 total yards with 6-10 TD’s and about 40-60 catches from Sproles. He will make for a fine No.2 RB and an excellent flex this season.