Larry Johnson to make Portis look spry
Johnson's signing with the Skins means little from a fantasy perspective
Mike Shanahan's first season in DC should be a lulu.
Clinton Portis, whose interview antics contributed to a poisonous atmosphere under hapless former Redskins coach Jim Zorn, got an opinionated backfield partner Friday, as Larry Johnson signed with the team.
Fantasy-wise, this doesn't matter, other than possibly indicating how privately concerned the Redskins seem to be about Portis. The incumbent Redskins starter will be 29 in September, a year before a typical running back's "Good Until " date, but he also has a whopping 2,176 carries in his career, or 755 more than Johnson, whose legs look cooked. Certainly I'm not willing to dismiss Portis because of the concussion that caused him to miss the final eight games of the '09 season; lots of players have come back from worse. What I'm worried about is how Portis looked before he got hurt. I mean, chalk it up to a substandard offensive line (and that's fair), but Portis had exactly two runs of more than 30 yards in eight games and 124 carries. And in '08, he had zero carries longer than 31 yards in 342 totes. I know Portis had his two best seasons under Shanny back in Denver. But that version of "Sheriff Gonna Getcha" wore a younger man's clothes. I have Portis ranked as my No. 39 running back, and the Johnson signing doesn't change that. I know Portis has done loads better in the past. Maybe I'll wind up being pilloried for missing out on his final burst of glory in the '10 season. But I'm willing to take my chances.
As for Johnson, he was an absentee during seven games to begin the season with the Chiefs, gaining 377 yards on 132 carries (a not-so-sparkling 2.8 yards per carry). Then he yapped his way out of Kansas City and landed with the Bengals as Cedric Benson's caddie. When Benson got hurt in advance of Week 12, LJ made fantasy owners take notice with 107 yards on 22 carries versus the Browns, but it was versus the Browns. Coincidentally, he got 22 total carries in the Bengals' final five games, including nine in that lie-down-like-dogs Week 17 affair against the Jets in the Meadowlands.
I suppose there's a case to be made that the latter-day Johnson is a one-cut plow horse, and if he's going to succeed in any system in 2010, it would be in a zone-blocking scheme. And I would counter by saying I don't think he's going to succeed in any system in 2010. And yeah, I guess LJ is big, so maybe some folks will call him the Redskins' goal-line option, except Portis is already a very good short-yardage back. Anyway, I still think at some point in April's draft, the Skins are going to select a running back -- I'll go way out on a limb and say Toby Gerhart in the third round -- who'll make all this LJ stuff look like much ado about nothing.
Which, at least from a fantasy perspective, is what it is.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner. You can ask him questions at www.facebook.com/writerboy.
2010 Fantasy Football Offseason
ESPN.comkeeps you connected to fantasy football all offseason long with updated rankings, mock drafts and analysis of all the important moves.
NFL Draft• Day 1: Ryan Mathews the big winner
• Day 2: Toby Gerhart now a handcuff
• Day 3: Rounds 4-7 can yield sleepers
• Matthew Berry's Top 150, updated June 4
• Christopher Harris' Top 200, updated May 11
• Fantasy Staff Top 200, updated April 30
• Christopher Harris' Top 200, updated April 19
• Matthew Berry's Top 100, April 8
Analysis from Christopher Harris
• Don't expect much from T.O. in Cincinnati
• Vincent Jackson no longer a top 25 receiver
• Jason Campbell is still bland in Oakland
• LenDale White, Leon Washington in Seattle
• Brandon Marshall deal to Miami boosts Henne
• Santonio Holmes' value falls with trade to Jets
• Donovan McNabb's stock drops with Redskins
• Willie Parker joins Redskins veteran RBBC
• Browns wheeling and dealing potential options
• LDT signing with Jets muddies Greene's value
• Larry Johnson still irrelevant with Redskins
• Derrick Mason's re-signing helps Flacco
• Antonio Bryant decent fit with Bengals
• Thomas Jones loses lots of value with Chiefs
• Reggie Brown intriguing with Tampa Bay
• Boldin trade doesn't do much for his value
• Taylor, Burleson open free-agency season
• NFL scouting combine fantasy review