Joyner: CJ is NFL's top fantasy back

July, 19, 2012
7/19/12
4:40
PM ET
In 2010, K.C. Joyner praised Mike Heimerdinger’s design on run plays the coordinator drew up for Chris Johnson.

The late Heimerdinger’s use of counter elements was masterful in helping Johnson get started on a lot of runs that turned into big plays. “Heimerdinger even went so far as to place counter fakes into plays where counter fakes are almost never used,” Joyner says in this Insider piece Insider on Johnson’s fantasy value.

In Chris Palmer’s first season as Titans coordinator, with no offseason because of the lockout, it took a good while for the team to get back to those counter-based plays.

By week 10, Joyner saw the Titans all the way back to the kind of plays that Johnson liked best and that worked best for him in the past. He got better blocking and showed more energy.

“That late-season surge could be enough on its own to lead to the idea that Johnson can get back to something close to his 2009 CJ2K form, but there is another factor that makes this even more likely: Johnson's offseason mental approach seemingly has gone through a change for the better,” Joyner rights.

He’s put on a bit of muscle and was part of the team’s offseason program for the first time.

It’s enough to get Joyner to rank Johnson as the top fantasy running back and a reasonable No. 2 pick behind only Aaron Rodgers.
"Johnson is a gifted back who is determined to get his elite reputation back, and this year he'll be running in an offensive system that once again is going to be tailored to his skill set. The only negatives for him are a tough schedule (my draft guide rates the Titans as facing the third-toughest set of run defenses) and the possibility that the Titans will throw the ball more this season. However, the addition of guard Steve Hutchinson helps offset the former and Johnson's pass-catching abilities (194 receptions in four NFL seasons) offsets the latter."

"When the positive factors listed above are combined with the fact that every top-flight fantasy running back prospect has at least one significant question mark, it means that Johnson should have a big season. He is the best fantasy football running back prospect in 2012."

What’s the significant question mark for Houston’s Arian Foster, I wonder? Must be the right side of the Texans’ line.

I’d still take Foster ahead of Johnson at this point.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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