Chris Johnson is a Premiere Buy-Low Candidate

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Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson

Sep 8, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) carries the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Tennessee Titans won 16-9. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Johnson owners have seen this movie before: the one in which their mercurial first round fantasy football draft pick looks so very ordinary, doing little with a bushel full of touches.

It’s a horror flick, with fantasy blood everywhere.

Johnson used his 25 totes against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 to gain a meager 77 yards (2.8 YPC). Johnson didn’t break the Big One — the one that washes away the memory of all those two and three-yard carries.

Johnson’s longest run against Pittsburgh’s crushing front seven went for 11 yards. Uninspiring, at best. Morbidly depressing, at worst.

Back to the movie, which seems to be on repeat: take a look at Johnson’s first two weeks of the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Year Rushes Yards Fantasy points
2011 Week 1 9 24 4.9
2011 Week 2 24 53 6.5
2012 Week 1 11 4 5.1
2012 Week 2 8 17 2.8

Let’s cut right to the chase. Anyone who bought low on CJ?K in 2011 and 2012 — paying pennies on the dollar — ended up with 1,465 total  yards in 2011 and 1,475 yards in 2012.

He finished as fantasy’s No. 15 running back in 2011 and 12th in 2012. Those who traded for him got a top-15 runner at a massive discount.

A pretty good investment, in the end.

Johnson got possibly the worst opening draw of 2013. The Steelers showed no respect for Jake Locker in their Week 1 matchup, stacking the line of scrimmage and daring the Tennessee signal caller to beat them.

The revamped Titans offensive line, which opened gaping holes for Johnson in the preseason, stood little chance against Pittsburgh’s defensive onslaught, regularly being pushed into the backfield on run plays and leaving Johnson juking his way to a two-yard gain.

You might want to wait to see if Johnson has another lackluster performance against the Houston Texans’ stout front seven in Week 2. You’d run the risk of seeing Johnson bust one of his signature long touchdowns, instantly submarining his Week 1 status as a perfect buy-low target.

Tennessee is not about to turn away from Johnson as the centerpiece of their offense. The Titans’ offensive line will show its teeth eventually, and when they do, Johnson will be a every-week top 10 running back.

Titans coaches have said, time and again, that they would be a run-first, run-often team in 2013. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the team rush 500 times. That gives Johnson about 300 totes, for the record.

“That’s what we’re hoping to be all about, what we’d be able to establish and we did that,” Titans head coach Mike Munchak said after his team ripped off 92 rushing yards in the first quarter of their preseason game against Washington. “We have to be a team that we’re going to do it if it’s there. If we think it’s there, we’re going to run the ball and take over on the line of scrimmage. We may run it 10 times in a row if that’s what it takes to win, or we feel we can take a game over.”

If Johnson pushes 350 carries, he could very well be in line for more than 1,500 rushing yards, as I noted in August.

The best reason to buy low on Johnson is the ease of his late-season schedule. An astounding six of his final eight games are highly favorable matchups; he could be a fantasy football playoff savior. Johnson, before he gets that slate of weak defenses, runs into the run-defending buzz saw that is the Seahawks and 49ers in Weeks 6 and 7, respectively.

Prepare yourself. It won’t be pretty.

Here are four running backs I’d sell in favor of Johnson before he takes on the Texans this week: Frank Gore, Darren McFadden, Ryan Mathews, and Daryl Richardson.

CJ?K owners, believe it or not, will bite on offers for those guys. Go ahead and buy low, before you can’t.

C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.
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