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Which Chris is the One to Own in the Jets Backfield?

ChrisJohnson

“Fate fell short this time, your smile fades in the summer”

Blink 182 Feeling This

 

The Jets Backfield is one of the great mysteries of the fantasy football offseason, so I’m going to write about it because that’s my job.

Chris #1

Ok lets’ talk about Chris #1, aka Chris Johnson. The good news for Chris #1 is that he’s been a starter his whole career and has put up 1400+ all-purpose yards every season of his career and is expected to at least be the token starter for the Jets. The other good news is he’s a capable pass catcher, which is more than you can say for Chris Ivory and his five career catches (seriously, five). That’s the good news.

The bad news is that despite averaging 271 carries over the past three years, Johnson hasn’t rushed for more than six touchdowns in any of those seasons. With the 222 pound Chris Ivory on the roster, there’s about a 0.0% chance Johnson gets the goal line work, so we’re probably not looking at awesome touchdown upside. The other bad news is that Chris #1 may not even be the most explosive back named Chris on the Jets roster. Seriously, check it out: I looked at Filtered Yards Per Carry over the past three years.

Over that time period, the average filtered yards per carry for a back with at least 50 attempts going over 5 yards (there are about 28 such backs a year) is about 10.2. In 2012, Johnson averaged 11.95 yards per carry on runs of 5 yards or longer, good for third in the league behind only Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles. In 2011, Johnson got 11.07 filtered yards per carry, still well above league average. Last season, however, Chris Johnson’s filtered yards per carry dropped to 9.04. Now, filtered yards per carry is a noisy stat, but when a player makes his living on long runs like Johnson does, and that player is getting old, like Johnson is (he turns 29 during the 2014 season) this is probably a red flag that he may be losing it.

Oh, and did I mention Chris Ivory was second in the league last year in Filtered Yards Per Carry with an impressive 12.08 per attempt? Not only that, but in the three seasons preceeding 2013, Ivory averaged an impressive 10.72 filtered yards per carry on 99 qualifying carries, so we have good reason to believe he is a legitimate big play threat.

Chris Johnson has basically survived on volume for the past three years, and it’s fair to wonder how long the Jets will keep feeding him carries if he doesn’t show explosive ability, especially when they have another back on the roster who’s capable of busting off the long runs Johnson was brought in to make.

Chris 2:

At 222 pounds, Ivory is deceptively fast, running a 4.49 40 at his pro day. That probably provides further support for the idea that he is a big play back. With a Speed Score of 109, it’s pretty obvious we’re looking at a profile 1 back.

The bad news is, and I know I’ve already mentioned this but it bears repeating, is that he’s caught 5 passes in four years in the league. He makes Michael Turner look like Marshall Faulk. The worse news is he’s horrendously fragile. Not like, “oh he missed two weeks three seasons in a row, he can’t stay healthy, blah, blah, blah.” Serious injury issues, like he missed time early in college, then transferred and suffered a knee injury that held him to 39 carries his senior season. Then he came to the NFL and this happened. Just for perspective, this is for a guy with under 450 NFL carries.

Conclusions:

In 2011 Chris Johnson’s yards/carry was low but he was at least doing something when he did get to the second level; that wasn’t true last year. Between that, his age, the fact that he’s probably not the best back on the roster, and the reality that he won’t be scoring many touchdowns, I have no idea why he’s being drafted as a low end RB2 (23rd among RBs on MFL). I think to return RB2 value he would need Ivory to appear in no more than 3 or 4 games, an unlikely proposition.

Chris Ivory is only the 47th back off the board, which seems like a pretty good price for the more talented back. My concern with Ivory isn’t as much about him getting injured as it is his capped upside. I don’t think the Jets believe Ivory is capable of handling a heavy workload and this is supported by the signing of Johnson. So even if Chris Johnson sucks, Ivory is probably looking at a 60/40 split. Even if CJ goes down Ivory still won’t play on passing downs because he’s incapable of catching the football. My feeling is that in PPR, Chris Ivory is currently a worthless player who has upside to one day be an RB3, so he’s more of a “watch list” guy than someone I’d use a roster spot on. In non-ppr you’re looking at a RB4 who probably has a decent chance to be a low end RB2, so there’s late round flier potential there.

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