Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
With the 12th pick in a 12-team draft, I'm expecting to face an unenviable choice: trusting Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson.
This is the same Chris Johnson who has produced 15 games over the last two seasons with seven or fewer fantasy points and just eight with 15 or more (standard scoring). And I'm supposed to make this guy my RB1?
If my draft plays out the same way as the mocks on fantasyfootballcalculator.com, the first 11 picks in some order will include running backs Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Doug Martin, C.J. Spiller, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch, Ray Rice, Trent Richardson, LeSean McCoy and Alfred Morris and wide receiver Calvin Johnson. There seems to be a major dropoff from those 10 running backs and Chris Johnson.
I'll also have the 13th pick -- if I go double running back, I'll end up with Johnson and Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte. I could also choose a top-three receiver, but I'll need to take at least one running back with those two selections, and I don't want to stick with Forte as a RB1 due to his injury history.
Taking Steven Jackson, Stevan Ridley or Maurice Jones-Drew in that spot also would be a reach.
That means that whether I go double running back or RB-WR with the 12th and 13th picks, Johnson will have to be one of my picks.
It might not be so bad, though (bear with me as I try to talk myself, and all those owners out there with the No. 12 pick, into Johnson).
The Titans fortified their offensive line this offseason by signing guard Andy Levitre away from the Buffalo Bills and drafting guard Chance Warmack from Alabama with the No. 10 overall pick. They also signed tight end Delanie Walker away from the San Francisco 49ers. Walker was one of the best blocking tight ends last season.
Here are some interesting numbers, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info:
- Johnson ranked last among qualified running backs in 2012 with 1.2 yards after contact
- Johnson was hit behind the line of scrimmage on 19.2 percent of his runs last season
It seems that Johnson, perhaps more than any other back in the NFL, needs holes to burst through or else he becomes completely useless. With the upgraded blocking personnel, the holes should be there this season.
A competent passing game would also help, and with Jake Locker going into his second full season as the starting quarterback and Kenny Britt both another year removed from his major knee injury and in search of a new contract, things should be better on that front in 2013.
Tennessee also has veteran Nate Washington, 2013 34th overall pick Justin Hunter and 2012 20th overall pick Kendall Wright to round out the passing game. Wright in particular has impressed during training camp -- according to the Tennessean, the second-year receiver "is lighter than last season, looks faster and has made one acrobatic catch after another."
With all those positives, trusting Johnson doesn't seem so bad after all, does it? Good, because we really have no other choice.
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