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Fantasy football impact as Chris Johnson becomes the newest New York addition

Andy Lyons

The Jets have spent the offseason trying to get something, anything from its offensive skill players, with Wednesday's signing of Chris Johnson the latest attempt. We break down the fantasy implications.

You ready for the pseudo-est sort of pseudo statistics? I went through last season's results and marked the fantasy position rankings (based on fantasy point totals) for each team's top player at each skill position (in other words, Peyton Manning, Jamaal Charles, Josh Gordon, and Jimmy Graham all scores 1's). I then totaled each team's four numbers (QB+RB+WR+TE).

This was not to reveal any great truism about players, because any "stat" method that ignores the 2013 contributions of Wes Welker, Alshon Jeffery, and anyone else who didn't finish as his team's No. 1 is pretty decidedly not comprehensive. No, I was merely trying to prove this simple point: From a fantasy perspective, no team was nearly as boring in 2013 as the New York Jets. It's just an Interestingness Quotient, and from that level, the Jets fail spectacularly:

QB RB WR TE Total
New York Jets 20 35 64 25 144
New York Giants 21 49 28 18 116
Jacksonville Jaguars 25 19 43 28 115
Buffalo Bills 29 10 56 19 114
St. Louis Rams 30 17
54
11
112
Oakland Raiders 27 22 35 23 107
Minnesota Vikings 21 7 32 36 107
Kansas City Chiefs 15 1 47 39 102
Baltimore Ravens 19 30 19 32 100
Houston Texans 34 33 12 16 95
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25 38 13 14 90
Cleveland Browns 31 52 1 5 89
Arizona Cardinals 17 24 16 31 88
Miami Dolphins 16 39 26 7 88
Atlanta Falcons 14 32 33 4 83
Carolina Panthers 3 21 42 8 74
New England Patriots 12 29 18 14 74
Tennessee Titans 24 8 29 12 73
Green Bay Packers 21 6 11 33 71
Indianapolis Colts 4 34 19 13 70
Washington Redskins 18 14 14 20 66
Seattle Seahawks 8 4 29 22 63
Pittsburgh Steelers 12 14 6 27 59
Cincinnati Bengals 5 18 4 25 52
New Orleans Saints 2 23 25 1 51
Detroit Lions 7 12 3 23 45
San Diego Chargers 6 10 17 9 42
Chicago Bears 23 3 5 10 41
Philadelphia Eagles 11 2 10 17 40
San Francisco 49ers 9 13 15 2 39
Dallas Cowboys 10 8 7 5 30
Denver Broncos 1 5 2 3 11

Basically, a fantasy team could have won with a New York Giant in a key position - say, Victor Cruz. A Jacksonville Jaguar could have been important, if you stacked a good roster around Maurice Jones-Drew. Fred Jackson, Zac Stacy, Torrey Smith ... Every NFL team had one guy who could have been a quasi-critical part of a fantasy roster. Except the Jets.

I suppose if you were really good at roster management, you could have had Chris Ivory as your RB2 and made a go of it elsewhere, but in short, you weren't going anywhere in fantasy in 2013 with a Jet unless his name was Nick Folk and he was kicking the ball.

The Jets, it seems, noticed this as well. This offseason, they added wide receiver Eric Decker (eighth at the position last year), quarterback Michael Vick (sure, 34th, but theoretically has a much higher upside), and capped that off Wednesday adding running back Chris Johnson (eighth). At the very least, the Jets will be an entity that exists in fantasy in 2014.

The question, then, becomes how much those guys - particularly Johnson, since he's the one in the news now - can accomplish in fantasy in 2014:

Johnson

CJ2K CJ1K CJ?K ran for a league-leading 2,006 yards in 2009 as a 24-year-old. He also led the league in rush attempts (358), rushing yards per game (125.4), and total yards from scrimmage (2,509). He scores 16 touchdowns. It was the new LaDainian Tomlinson.

Except, despite playing in every game of every season since, Johnson hasn't rushed for even 1,400 yards in a season. After that 16-touchdown year in '09, he's totaled 32 in the four seasons since (half the rate, math-doer). And now, he's 29 years old with more than 2,000 career touches.

Johnson has finished among in the second-or-so tier of fantasy running backs in the last few years despite his decreased production, in large part because dude is super-durable. In itself, that is of course a skill, except it is one of the most obvious diminishes-with-age skills out there. Coming off a career-low 1,422 yards from scrimmage in 2013, Johnson now joins the Jets. Which means that, instead of Jackie Battle and part of a season of Shonn Greene, Johnson's backfield also includes Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell.

Ivory ran for 833 yards in 15 games last year, adding 10 receiving yards (dude does not catch the football). Powell contributed 754 yards of his own. Not since Johnson's rookie year - when LenDale White ran for 773 yards - has the newest Jet had a teammate rush for even three hundred yards in a full season. So right about the time you'd think his age and workload would start to catch up with Johnson, he joins a team that will have to put less on his shoulders.

That's all good news for the Jets. Johnson will be the team's No. 1 running back, and should maintain reasonably fresh legs for most of the season. Ivory - never the paragon of health himself - and Powell should stay fresh as well. In short, the Jets' 2014 running attack ought to be a pretty daggone good one.

Only problem is, that's not a strong fantasy recipe. As mentioned above, the best fantasy contribution of Johnson in recent years - not that that "2K" part of his name appears to be gone - has been his durability, his reliability. Even though he was never going to Adrian Peterson-out again, the fact that Johnson would reliably play basically every game and throw some numbers out there was helpful, if not game-winnable. That, it would seem, is now gone, as he's pretty clearly going to a situation that directly goes against that.

Were Johnson still a Titan, or on a team where he would be a lead back, he'd probably enter 2014 as a high-end RB2, maybe 12th or 13th at the position. In New York, though, his opportunities are very likely to be less, and his ranking will suffer as a result. Look for Johnson to be a flex play entering the season, maybe in the 25-range among running backs. (Ivory is in the late 30s and Powell in the late 40s, for those of you in deep leagues.) Good news for the Jets (hey, good player!) is less good for fantasy players.

Vick

There's a pretty good chance (even odds? better?) that Michael Vick will be as fantasy relevant in 2014 as he was in 2013 (read: not very). While incumbent quarterback Geno Smith was insanely inconsistent as a 2013 rookie, he did put up 20 or more fantasy points five times, scoring 10 or more in five other games. A little growth, a little improvement in the weapons around him, it's not completely insane to suggest Smith could make a leap in 2014.

That said, Vick-as-a-starter and Smith-as-a-starter would be interesting in similar ways (not that they are very similar players; Smith ran for about 23 yards a game last year, which would be the worst number of Vick's starting career by a wide margin). On a team with increased weapons, whichever quarterback takes the reins could be a mid-level QB2, maybe ranking 13th or 14th at the position in 2014.

Decker

It's easy to parse Decker's career numbers into BP and WP (Before Peyton and With Peyton) divisions: He had 718 yards and nine touchdowns in 30 career games of Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow; he had 2,352 yards and 24 touchdowns in 32 Peyton-ful games. Just looking at that, it would be simple to say Decker is in line for a production dropoff in 2014, just from having a new quarterback.

That's pretty slipshod analysis, though; Decker wasn't really a relevant player in his rookie 2010, targeted only eight times. And in 2011, he spent much of the season on the same roster as just-led-the-league-in-receiving-yards Brandon Lloyd. After that, he was "catching" "passes" "from" Tim Tebow, and say what you will about Vick and/or Smith, but they are definitely better than Tebow. On top of that, Decker has literally never been a team's No. 1 receiving option, with the possible exception of his Tebow time in 2011. He will be that and then some in New York.

Far and away the most likely outcome for Decker in 2014 is a happy medium between his BP and WP results - which isn't saying much, sure, as that's a wide range. But as a No. 1 receiver on a team that also offers a decent running game (and, if rumors hold true, possibly a good rookie draft pick receiver as well), Decker promises to still be a high-end WR3, low-end WR2 at worst in 2014. I'd rank him 30th or so at the position right now, but I think a rise to 20th is far more likely than a fall to 40th.

There's a wide range of outcomes in the Jets' offense in 2014. At the very least, though, they've managed to become a team that will at least be relevant in fantasy. That's a heck of a lot more than they had going on in 2013.

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