Being a rookie running back in the NFL is no easy task. Complicated playbooks, faster defenses, and game day pressure can lead to bust and washouts in the end. With the exception of a few recent hits (i.e. Steven Jackson, Addai, and Gore), the running back position has been just as hard to successfully judge as the quarterbacks. For every Jackson, Addai and Gore, there is a Kevin Jones, Tatum Bell, and Trung Candidate. Some of it has to do with work ethic, maybe the team, but inevitably falls on the runner himself.
Two years ago the Tennessee Titans took bruising running back LenDale White out of USC to add depth to their running corps. LenDale did not have a great rookie season by any means, stuck behind since traded Travis Henry (who recently got released from Denver) and Chris Brown who signed as a free agent with the Texans this year. After the trade of Travis Henry, LenDale became the starter, and did have a very sound sophomore season, rushing for over 1,100 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Now, you’re probably thinking that this story is about LenDale White, but it really isn’t, it’s about how LenDale is going to be now there’s a speed threat on this Titans team, named Chris Johnson. The first round selection out of East Carolina University was clocked at an amazing 4.24 40 speed at this years combine. While some might think that his speed won’t translate to the NFL, where everyone is fast, I believe that Chris Johnson can excel because of his speed AND toughness. Watch film of the guy from ECU, you will see a back that is not afraid to make contact or hit a defensive back. Watch him break 2 tackles and then take off like nothing, leaving nothing but defenders in his way.
What he brings to the Tennessee offense is a speed threat that is sorely missed. Critics will try to say that the Titans should have drafted a WR to help out Vince Young, but no team felt a WR was worth a first round pick. What the Titans envisioned when they drafted Chris Johnson, was a speedy playmaker to help LenDale carry the offense, both as a running back, and as a receiver, which he did plenty of back at
ECU. Not to mention that
Chris Johnson is a threat returning kicks, with his ability to make people miss in the open field, he could end up posting some pretty good fantasy numbers his rookie season.
Chris Johnson is definitely worth mid to late round consideration, because of how the Titans want to use him; he’s going to get touches. I’m not a fortune teller by any means, but if I had to predict his stats, I would say 500 plus yards rushing, 300 plus yards receiving, and more then 8 combined TD’s. Not bad if someone can find him later in the draft available.