The NFL season kicks off in three weeks and Titans running back/fantasy stud Chris Johnson remains AWOL from camp, resolute in his endeavor of obtaining a new deal. Most fantasy owners have disregarded the dispute, selecting Johnson in his accustomed slot in the top tier of drafts. Management’s willingness to soothe Johnson’s anxiety, stating they will grant the running back’s wishes once he ends his holdout, has certainly instilled confidence that the three-time Pro Bowler will be ready to roll in the season opener.
Yet with the second week of preseason games upon us, is it time to start worrying about Johnson’s fantasy forecast?
The answer is a resounding “yes.”
An epidemic of injuries has ravished the league, as many players’ bodies are accustomed to exercising in football-related drills. The lack of repetitions in these pigskin-centric movements has correlated to a rash of lower extremity injuries, most notably Achilles ruptures. Already behind the eight-ball in this training, Johnson’s continued sabbatical leaves him susceptible to injury once he is thrown into the fire. In that same breath, Johnson’s overall conditioning is unknown, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the East Carolina product might arrive in subpar shape.
Another factor in play is the Titans’ situation behind center. Offseason acquisition (and by “offseason,” we mean 18 days ago) Matt Hasselbeck’s assimilation into the Tennessee offense hasn’t been a smooth transition, and Johnson’s absence undoubtedly amplifies this issue. A confused quarterback isn’t enhancing Johnson’s prospects. Granted, Johnson has been saddled with Kerry Collins and the Artist Formerly Known as Vince Young, but at least those two had a handle on the offensive scheme (ok, maybe not Young).
One of the principles of fantasy football drafting is to minimalize your risks. The longer Johnson stays at home, the higher the gamble becomes. For now, move Johnson behind Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles. If Johnson remains on vacation this time next week, contemplate dropping him behind Ray Rice.