Chris Johnson Historical Comparisons

Chris Johnson is a  great example of a guy who is going to test my evaluation criteria to its breaking point.  He’s a fascinating puzzle this year and I’m having fun with his evaluation almost like a Rubik’s Cube.  Almost all of the signals that my evaluation criteria give on Johnson are conflicting!!

Johnson grades out relatively poorly from a consistency standpoint (how many of the games he carried the ball in did he exceed a base level of fantasy production).  He has a relatively poor Adjusted Yards Per Carry, which is basically Johnson’s YPC and then subtract out the YPC of the defenses he faced.  But Johnson grades out as elite in the Filtered YPC metric, which throws out runs less than 4 yards.  Johnson’s Filtered YPC average is the same as guys like Jamaal Charles and Darren McFadden.  So we know he can still run.

Below is a table of players who have had seasons similar to Johnson’s 2010 campaign.  You’ll notice that these comparisons are buckshot!  They’re all over the place.  Barry Sanders, Rudi Johnson, and Willis McGahee.  Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?

Chris Johnson Historical Comparisons to 2010 Season

Player Age Season Tm G Att/G Y/G YPC TD/G Rec/G Rec Y/G FP/G S FP/G PPR
Chris Johnson 25 2010 TEN 16 19.8 85.3 4.1 0.7 2.8 15.3 14.6 17.3
Barry Sanders 24 1992 DET 16 19.5 84.5 4.4 0.6 1.8 14.1 13.6 15.4
Travis Henry 25 2003 BUF 15 22.1 90.4 3.9 0.7 1.9 10.5 14.5 16.4
Willie Parker 26 2006 PIT 16 21.1 93.4 4.2 0.8 1.9 13.9 16.7 18.7
Deuce McAllister 26 2004 NOR 13 20.5 82.5 4.1 0.7 2.6 17.5 14.2 16.8
Rudi Johnson 25 2004 CIN 16 22.6 90.9 4.0 0.8 0.9 5.3 14.1 15.1
Terry Allen 27 1995 WAS 16 21.1 81.8 3.8 0.6 1.9 14.5 13.8 15.7
Willis McGahee 26 2007 BAL 15 19.6 80.5 4.1 0.5 2.9 15.4 12.8 15.7
Travis Henry 24 2002 BUF 16 20.3 89.9 4.4 0.8 2.7 19.3 16.2 18.9
Ryan Grant 27 2009 GNB 16 17.6 78.3 4.4 0.7 1.6 12.3 13.2 14.8
Chris Warren 27 1995 SEA 16 19.4 84.1 4.2 0.9 2.2 15.4 16.0 18.1
Stephen Davis 26 2000 WAS 15 22.1 87.9 3.9 0.7 2.2 20.9 15.3 17.5
Natrone Means 22 1994 SDG 16 21.4 84.4 3.9 0.8 2.4 14.7 14.4 16.8
Clinton Portis 27 2008 WAS 16 21.4 92.9 4.2 0.6 1.8 13.6 14.0 15.8
Eddie George 23 1996 HOU 16 20.9 85.5 4.1 0.5 1.4 11.4 12.7 14.1
Corey Dillon 27 2001 CIN 16 21.3 82.2 3.7 0.6 2.1 14.3 14.5 16.6
Clinton Portis 24 2005 WAS 15 23.2 100.5 4.4 0.7 1.8 13.5 15.8 17.6
Rudi Johnson 26 2005 CIN 16 21.1 91.1 4.3 0.8 1.4 5.6 14.2 15.6
Adrian Peterson 25 2010 MIN 15 18.9 86.5 4.6 0.8 2.4 22.7 16.1 18.5
Terrell Davis 24 1996 DEN 16 21.6 96.1 4.3 0.8 2.3 19.4 17.2 19.4
Bobby Humphrey 24 1990 DEN 14 20.4 85.5 4.1 0.5 1.7 10.9 12.6 14.4
Corey Dillon 26 2000 CIN 16 19.7 89.7 4.2 0.4 1.1 9.9 12.6 13.7

If we look at the list of Chris Johnson similar players in the year after they were similar to Johnson we see the problems with Johnson’s 2010 season.  Our similarity based projections do not like guys who average low yards per carry and aren’t productive in the receiving game (where Johnson averaged less than 6 yards/reception).  In Similarity Based Projections I have 11 backs ahead of Johnson and they’re all good pass catchers.

You’ll also note that a number of the guys on the list played partial seasons in the year after being similar to Johnson 2010 (see below table).  We don’t think of Johnson as old, but of the running backs who ran for 1000 yards last year, only Michael Turner, Steven Jackson and Cedric Benson were older than 25 years old.  Johnson will be 26 this year.

Chris Johnson Similar Players Y2

Player G Att/G Y/G Y/A TD/G Rec/G Rec Y/G Rec TD/G FP/G S FP/G PPR
Barry Sanders 11 22.1 101.4 4.6 0.3 3.3 18.6 - 13.6 16.9
Travis Henry 5 17.4 60.0 3.4 - 1.6 7.0 - 6.7 8.3
Willie Parker 14 22.9 94.1 4.2 0.1 1.6 11.7 - 11.4 13.1
Deuce McAllister 5 18.6 67.0 3.5 0.6 3.4 23.4 - 12.6 16.0
Rudi Johnson 16 21.1 91.1 4.3 0.8 1.4 5.6 - 14.2 15.6
Terry Allen 16 21.7 84.6 3.9 1.3 2.0 12.1 - 17.5 19.5
Willis McGahee 12 13.8 53.9 4.0 0.5 1.8 12.3 - 9.6 11.5
Travis Henry 15 22.1 90.4 3.9 0.7 1.9 10.5 0.1 14.5 16.4
Ryan Grant 1 8.0 45.0 5.6 - - - - 4.5 4.5
Chris Warren 14 14.5 61.1 4.0 0.4 2.9 19.5 - 10.2 13.1
Stephen Davis 16 22.3 89.5 4.0 0.3 1.8 12.8 - 12.1 13.9
Natrone Means 8 22.6 89.8 4.0 0.6 0.8 5.1 - 13.2 14.0
Clinton Portis 7 17.1 70.0 4.1 0.1 1.3 8.1 0.1 9.5 10.8
Eddie George 16 22.3 87.4 3.7 0.4 0.4 2.8 0.1 11.6 12.1
Corey Dillon 15 19.5 80.2 4.0 0.5 2.3 15.4 - 12.4 14.7
Clinton Portis 8 15.9 65.4 4.1 0.9 2.1 21.3 - 13.9 16.0
Rudi Johnson 16 21.3 81.8 3.8 0.8 1.4 7.8 - 13.5 14.9
Terrell Davis 15 24.6 116.7 4.6 1.0 2.8 19.1 - 19.6 22.4
Bobby Humphrey 2 5.0 16.5 3.3 - - - - 1.7 1.7
Corey Dillon 16 21.3 82.2 3.7 0.6 2.1 14.3 0.2 14.5 16.6

If we think about Johnson’s 2010 season and what we know about him through our metrics (he’s elite when he gets in space, he suffered from a screwed up TEN system last year), it turns out that we really need to have some comfort related to the TEN offense this year.  You have to be comfortable that they’ll be able to stay on the field and move the chains, giving Johnson more opportunities than he comes up with just on his own.  If you think that they can just hand the ball off to Johnson like they did two years ago, you’re going to be mistaken.

I think the TEN offense is where the problem lies.  Tennessee may have made a mild upgrade from rookie Jake Locker by bringing in Matt Hasselbeck, but it probably wasn’t much.  Here are Hasselbeck’s stats going back to 2002.  Notice the deterioration?  I do.  I think Hasselbeck is problematic just in terms of knowing whether he can stay on the field, and then if he is on the field, what kind of upgrade does he provide over a rookie?  12 TDs and 17 INTs look like rookie numbers to me.

Matt Hasselbeck Passing Stats

Year Age Tm G GS Cmp% Yds TD Int Y/A Y/G Rate
2002 27 SEA 16 10 63.7 3075 15 10 7.3 192.2 87.8
2003* 28 SEA 16 16 61.0 3841 26 15 7.5 240.1 88.8
2004 29 SEA 14 14 58.9 3382 22 15 7.1 241.6 83.1
2005* 30 SEA 16 16 65.5 3459 24 9 7.7 216.2 98.2
2006 31 SEA 12 12 56.6 2442 18 15 6.6 203.5 76.0
2007* 32 SEA 16 16 62.6 3966 28 12 7.1 247.9 91.4
2008 33 SEA 7 7 52.2 1216 5 10 5.8 173.7 57.8
2009 34 SEA 14 14 60.0 3029 17 17 6.2 216.4 75.1
2010 35 SEA 14 14 59.9 3001 12 17 6.8 214.4 73.2
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/5/2011.

It’s taken me some time to get here, but I think I have to move CJ out of the “Big Four”. I think he has the same talent level as the other three (probably a lot more talent than Foster actually), but he’s in the worst offensive situation. Even MIN will be more efficient I think. So I would still take CJ before LeSean McCoy, but after Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, and Jamaal Charles.

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