Fantasy Football: Chris Johnson’s Impact on the Cardinals


This is not the Chris Johnson you will see this year. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Johnson, the player formerly known as CJ2K, has signed a one-year with the Arizona Cardinals. Johnson made a career out of busting out for long plays with incredible straight-line speed, but a powerful runner was never part of his game. And as any player ages, their speed and natural ability inevitably will decline. Considering he was a free agent until Monday, it’s probably pretty obvious as to why he isn’t a player you want to have even in the deepest of fantasy leagues.

Does Johnson have a chance to make an impact with the Cardinals in 2015? I wouldn’t be surprised if he was given an opportunity to perform in a game, provided he makes it onto the 53-man roster. But even if he gets a chance, there’s no reason to have any optimism for a different Chris Johnson than the one that we saw last year in New York.

There’s no nice way to put it: Chris Johnson was awful last year. How awful? Well, he amassed 155 rushes. Out of the 16 players who had 155 +/- 20 carries, he only outperformed four: Doug Martin, Bishop Sankey, Darren McFadden, and Trent Richardson. Basically a who’s who of last year’s most disappointing running backs.

He had as many fumbles as he did rushing touchdowns in 2014 (1 each). He simply wasn’t able to get anything going, and Chris Ivory far outperformed him. And the Jets were a bad team last year, but that doesn’t excuse being the fifth worst running back with his opportunity. And this season wasn’t just an outlier. Chris Johnson had seen a slow decline in production since his peak in his second season, back in 2009.

Andre Ellington and David Johnson, while they come with their injury concerns, are both much better than Chris Johnson and I would expect both to outperform him by a large margin, even if they miss time this season. This move for Johnson probably says more about the lack of depth on the team, as the rest of the backs are largely unproven and probably couldn’t handle a substantial workload (Stefan Taylor, Kerwynne Williams, Marion Grice). But even if both Ellington and David Johnson miss time, it’s doubtful that Chris Johnson could handle a full workload either, thus restricting his fantasy upside even more.

Chris Johnson will be 30 by the end of September. As a general rule, investing in a running back who is 30 years old and has shown consistent decline is a bad idea. You can get him for free in any draft, or pick him up at waivers at any time if you really want him, but I wouldn’t suggest it. There is certainly a possibility that Chris Johnson flashes his quickness in a game, and he becomes a waiver wire pickup. However, he will end up being dropped just as quickly as he was picked up when he gains under 100 yards in the next three games combined.

Fantasy football is a game of analysis, and many of us tend to overthink things. Cases like Chris Johnson shows how important it is to accept clear signs that are given right to us. He has shown consistent decline, was unreliable and unusable last year in fantasy, and no team wanted him until mid-way through training camp. Don’t get too clever or try to go against the grain. Pass on CJ2K in 2015.

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