The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
A quarter of the way through the NFL season, we’ve hit a crossroads of sorts in fantasy football. Four games are in the books, giving owners four opportunities to evaluate their team and get frustrated with high draft picks who are not performing.
There are plenty of these players floating around the league, but the biggest case of fan disappointment for a first round pick has to be Titans running back Chris Johnson. In most drafts, Johnson went as maybe the fifth running back off the board, behind the likes of Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy.
Yet, guys like Doug Martin and Trent Richardson, along with C.J. Spiller and even Andre Brown, have far exceeded Johnson’s production. He’s a long way from his days of being CJ2K and rushing for 2,000 yards.
What’s more alarming is that Johnson appears to have lost a little zip on the field. Questions have been popping up around the league on whether he’s as fast as he used to be to the hole, with some people speculating that he’s a full two-tenths of a second slower. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but for a guy who used to be the fastest player in the league, it hurts his value.
The plays Johnson used to break for 70-yard touchdowns just haven’t been there. Instead, Johnson looks tentative going through the line and not committing to the end of his runs. This isn’t anything new, either, as he had the same problems last season.
Lastly, Johnson hasn’t even seemed to take the blame on himself. Read this quote from Johnson on his blocking this year:
“People need to step up and do their job,” Johnson said, via John Glennon of theTennessean . “They don’t need to let people beat them. It don’t matter who the opposing defense is, you can’t let your guy beat you. You just can’t give up plays. You have to make plays like they make plays. I can’t speak for the defense. I can only speak for the offense.”
After Johnson rushed for 141 yards on 25 carries against Houston (more than tripling his yardage total for the season), he’s at a perfect place to dump, if you feel so inclined. His value could only take a dive from this point, so if you can land either another runner who’s having a solid season (like the aforementioned Richardson, for example), it’d be a great time to swing a trade.
Is there a chance Johnson merely had a slow start to the season? Sure, but through the first four games, we’re getting an idea that the Titans are going to struggle this season to score points. If that’s the case, they’ll likely be playing for behind an awful lot, giving Johnson few opportunities to go over 20 carries in a game.
That’s why it makes sense to trade him now, while he’s got some value. Who are some other guys who may have had disappointing starts and could be available for trade?
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay – Things don’t look great for Mr. Discount Double-Check. Rodgers has thrown half as many interceptions in his first three games as he did in 16 games last season. He also threw just three TD passes in his first three games before torching a bad Saints secondary for four scores last week. He’s only thrown for over 300 yards twice in four games and is missing his top wideout in Greg Jennings.
There are reasons for owners to be concerned about Rodgers, which makes him a great buy-low option. Cedric Benson continues to get carries in that offense and it doesn’t look like Rodgers will be able to duplicate last season’s performance. However, he’d be an upgrade over virtually every other QB in the league, so it’s worth exploring if you can pry him loose this week.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit – As the No. 1 wideout on most boards heading into this season, Johnson’s performance could definitely be viewed skeptically. He’s only scored one TD this season and has just two games with over 100 yards receiving. Plus, he had a stink bomb last week against Minnesota.
However, if we compare his stats last season through four games to what he has done now, he’s actually ahead of his pace in everything except TDs. Last year, Johnson had 24 catches for 321 yards and eight TDs in his first four games. This year, he’s got 29 catches for 423 yards and one TD.
It’s also worth noting that Johnson only had eight more TDs in the next 13 games last season, so he is on a similar pace to his second-half scoring numbers, while also being on pace for just as many catches and yards as he had when he lead the league with 1,681 receiving yards. Basically, don’t sell on him yet, unless someone knocks you over with an offer.
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans – We talked last week about how disappointing the highly-drafted QBs have been. Brees is one of those polarizing guys as the best player on a bad team. Yes, he’ll continue to play from behind, but he’s also been part of the reason why the Saints have been behind.
Brees is still leading the NFL in passing yards with 1,350. He’s also leading the league in passing attempts at 191, which is just an unsustainable number. If he continues at this pace, he’ll get to 5,000 yards again with 40 TDs and 20 interceptions. That’s right, he’s on pace to throw at least 20 INTs for just the second time in his career.
That’s not the only warning sign here, as Brees is posting his lowest completion percentage since 2004, when he started 11 games for the Chargers. That doesn’t mean automatically sell on him. If you can live with the increased interceptions, Brees should put up consistent yardage totals this season. The ineffectiveness in the Saints running game also means he’ll probably pick up most of the offensive TDs too.
Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay – Here’s the only player so far on this list to be beset by injuries most of all. Jennings has missed time and missed time and come back and then gotten hurt again. He’s a very talented part of this Green Bay offense, but he needs to be on the field to be a part of it.
Still, we saw what Jennings can provide in a half against the Saints. The star wideout caught a TD pass before reinjuring his groin and missing the second half. If Jennings gets healthy, he’s a great receiving option.
If his owner is fed up with injuries right now, it may be a great time to swoop in with a deal. Maybe try and flip a Danny Amendola or even Torry Smith for him, as long as you have another receiver to plug in at your No. 1 spot. Jennings would make a great No. 2 or No. 3 option once he proves he can stay healthy.