In Memoriam of CJ2.5K - NFL Week 4

I think it's pretty safe to say that Chris Johnson isn't going to reach 2,500 yards any time soon. Aaron Lanton takes a look at why.

In Memoriam of CJ2.5K

“I’m done with Chris Johnson. He’s a bum. The Titans should release him today... (Two minutes later) Man, he got one more game and then that’s it for me. He’s like that girlfriend that you stay with even though you know it won’t work out. You try to always remember the good times, but it’s never going to come close again.”

Charles Brown of Nashville, TN - Septmeber 28, 2012

Eons ago, during the 2009 NFL season, Johnson amassed a record 2,509 yards from scrimmage including 2,006 rushing yards. In his second year as a pro, Johnson went from a relative unknown from East Carolina University to an elite running back and fantasy football savior in the eyes of football fans across the country. Expectations were understandably high for the following season, and Johnson did not shy away from the new spotlight.

"I want to be the first running back to run for 2,000 yards twice," Johnson said to USA Today. "I know I can get (2,500 rushing yards) as long as I stay patient and keep working hard. I'm not satisfied."

We know now that CJ2.5K has fallen far short of his brazen predictions, but we have also run out of excuses for him to not return to elite form. First, we thought it could be fatigue from carrying so much of the load in 2009. Later, we blamed the offense line not opening up enough holes. Last season, Mike Munchak became the new Titans’ head coach plus Johnson missed the entire training camp because of a contract holdout; that has to explain it right? Fantasy players continued to have faith in Johnson prior to the start of the 2012 season despite disappointments from the last two years.

We are officially at an impasse this season. Through three games, Johnson has 45 rushing yards, 0 touchdowns, at average of 1.4 yards per carry. Jake Locker has more rushing yards so far in the same amount of action. All statistics that gauge player efficiency such as NEP and success rate have Johnson in the bottom of the barrel for starters at his position. Perhaps even more alarming is the rapid descent of his season totals for yards from scrimmage. After his career high, record breaking 2,509 yards from scrimmage, Johnson has experienced a 900 yard drop off in two consecutive seasons. That represents at least a 36 % drop in production per year. A Hall of Fame running back such as Marshall Faulk experienced the same setback, but it happened at the end of a longer career. This is more along the lines of Larry Johnson’s early ascension and immediate decline from five years ago. For the old veteran or the flash in the pan, two consecutive seasons of 900 yard declines from a career high in yards from scrimmage signal that the player will never again return to elite status.

To be fair, CJ2.5K’s last two seasons were not terrible, but they certainly did not merit any any discussions of him as an elite running back for the 2012 season. Fantasy players do not gain extra points each week for loyalty, creativity, or ingenuity. Starting Chris Johnson at this point in the season would be an exercise in foolishness based on the data we currently have. He is no longer CJ2.5K. He is simply Chris. You have a responsibility to your fantasy team to play the odds. Forgive yourself for drafting him in the second round (or Zeus forbid, the first round), and make contingency plans now like trading him to the one guy in your league who doesn’t read numberFire. If Chris gets out of this funk that’s great, but a quarter of the season is about to finish and you need production today. Be proactive and seek solutions now. But let us never forget the good times with CJ2.5K. We will remember you.