Hey, guess what THIS post is about?
Yes, it’s about the growing trend of NFL teams starting one "power" back and one "speed" back. For those of you keeping track at home, I’ve already covered how the Panthers, Cowboys and Steelers have drafted personnel that allows them to move to this offense. Today it’s about Chris Johnson (24th overall) and the Titans, a team who should’ve figured this out earlier.
When the Titans drafted LenDale White, they probably felt they got themselves a bargain. When White was teamed up with Reggie Bush in college, some pundits felt that White’s hard, grinding work between the tackles was overshadowed by Bush’s heroics. Once he was away from Bush, LenDale White was expected to be the prototypical NFL back: a grinding, dominating runner that could pick up a team and carry them on his broad back.
It turns out that White wasn’t overshadowed. White was a powerful back, but without a complimentary speedy runnning back, he just isn’t all that successful. In half of his games last season he averaged less than 3.5 yards per carry. This isn’t a dig at White, he’s a strong runner and a good fantasy choice, but he’s simply not the type of guy that can carry the running back load by himself. (Neither is Reggie Bush, but that’s another post).
The Titans, to their credit, realized this and drafted the extra-speedy, extra-versatile Chris Johnson to complement White. Johnson is fast (he had the fastest 40 yard time at the NFL Combine), he’s elusive and he can catch the ball. He brings a new dimension to what was a plodding Titans running game.
That said, is he going to be good for your fantasy team? I say absolutely, though you won’t see fantasy-starter-level production from him every single game. The Titans will make sure he gets his carries, and he’s going to break open some big games, but he’ll rarely see a goal line carry. I’ll project him to finish with about 600 rushing yards and maybe one touchdown, but add in receiving yards (remember, the Titans STILL have a WR problem) and it wouldn’t be surprising for Johnson to close in on 1000 all-purpose yards in 2008. Maybe I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, but right now I’m high on Chris Johnson’s fantasy prospects for this year.