Last year at this time, C.J. Anderson was going as the 7th overall pick on average. Fantasy Football owners were chomping at the bit to own the Bronco.
Anderson had gone on a tear at the end of the 2014 season. People were hoping that he would wipe the Montee Ball taste right out of their mouths.
In general, people want to draft the next big thing rather than boring consistency. Anderson fit that role perfectly and people jumped on it.
I was on the other end of the fence. I can proudly say that I did not own Anderson in a single one of my double-digit leagues. Did I know he would be a complete bust? Not for sure. But I was not putting my eggs in the basket of someone with such a low floor.
That brings us to the flavor of the year: David Johnson.
David Johnson vs. C.J. Anderson
C.J. Anderson ended his 2014 season with a dominant 6-game stretch. He rushed for 648 yards while catching 18 passes for 131 yards. He totaled 9 touchdowns to go with his 779 combined yards. Over that time period he averaged 22 standard and 25 PPR points a game, second among all non-QB’s. This led to an off-season of over-hype and Anderson being a Top-7 pick in the majority of Fantasy Drafts last season.
David Johnson got the starting role in game 11 for the Cardinals in 2015 and took off like a comic book movie at the box office. Over the last six games, he had 463 yards rushing, 19 catches and 224 yards. He reached the end zone 6 times himself, to go along with the 687 combined yards. He averaged 17.5 standard and 20.6 PPR points, leading all running backs over that time frame. His off-season of hype has led him to be a Top-6 pick in the majority of Fantasy Drafts.
Did anyone just feel like they read the same paragraph twice?
Some waffling, shock-value Fantasy pundits preach that David Johnson is the real deal. They are saying that we are “morons” if we think that he is another C.J. Anderson from 2015. The main factor that is pointed out in this argument is the situation. The Cardinals have the best 3-headed receiving machine in the league when it comes to big plays. Carson Palmer is coming off of arguably his best season. It looks like the perfect situation for a running back like David Johnson. He will get to take advantage of 6-man boxes as defenses have to worry about Arizona taking it over the top. The Arizona defense should be one of the best units in the league, leading to more and better scoring opportunities for David Johnson.
You know, kind of like how the Broncos had the game’s all-time leading passer with two of the Top-5 receiving yardage leaders from 2014 going into last season. Denver had the best defense in the league that led them to a Super Bowl win. C.J. Anderson had everything set up perfectly to be a Fantasy Stud the equivalent of Aaron Rodgers’ little brother’s Bachelorette showing.
Manning got hurt, Anderson under-performed and he ended up as the second highest scoring running back… in his own backfield. He ended the year with only 123 more total yards, 7 more catches and 4 less touchdowns over FIFTEEN games than he produced in that SIX game stretch in 2014. He averaged just 8 standard and 9 PPR points per game, with only two showings of at least 74 yards rushing.
This is where knee-jerk click-baiters like Brad Evans (who said he would take Anderson 5th overall last season) point out that the situation was doomed because of Peyton Manning’s age/injury and David Johnson “has more talent.” Well David Johnson relies on a quarterback that is just two years older than Manning was last year. Carson Palmer has also missed more games than Tony Romo over the same time period. The same Tony Romo that everyone is frightened will miss the majority of this upcoming season again.
Oh, and let us not forget that David Johnson might not even start. All reports are that Chris Johnson looks faster than last season, in which he was among the league leaders in rushing before his injury. David Johnson could end up starting all season, but this seems more like a RBBC with Andre Ellington involved as well.
For what it’s worth, Cardinals’ RBs coach says David Johnson and Chris Johnson are “both even” at running the ball: https://t.co/Nmxar9foko
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) August 2, 2016
What is even crazier is that Anderson’s small sample is exponentially better and more consistent than David Johnson in 2015. Anderson had more yards and touchdowns. He had at least 96 total yards and scored in five of the six games. David Johnson had less than 40 yards rushing in half of his stretch. He only scored in four of his last six games.
Just because David Johnson was a third-round NFL Draft pick and C.J. Anderson went undrafted it does not mean that Johnson will out-perform Anderson. That is like comparing undrafted Arian Foster to first-rounder Trent Richardson. With that said, Anderson is the same weight, just a few inches shorter, ran the 40-yard dash in just .1 seconds slower, but had a 0.15-second faster shuttle. It is impossible to say that David Johnson is simply “more talented” than Anderson was thought to be going into last year.
David Johnson could break out as many expect him to. I am not going to risk my draft capital on the utmost of unknown. Especially when there is so much more consistency at the top of the draft. Any of the Top-6 receivers, along with Rob Gronkowski, Adrian Peterson, and Jamaal Charles provide more safety with ridiculously higher floors than David Johnson.
As it has been said, you cannot win your league in the first round. Even if David Johnson lead all Flex players in scoring, that does not mean you are automatically in the championship hunt. However, if he falls flat like Anderson, then you will have to hit on multiple late-round lottery tickets to even contend for a playoff spot.
I am all about getting the best odds. Whether it be poker, betting on real football or Fantasy Football, I put my chips in on the most likely scenario. After looking at the eerily similar comparison, David Johnson putting up C.J. Anderson-like numbers this season is the most likely scenario. If you can’t see that then I pray that you are in a league drafting just before me in the first round.
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