The Final Fate of the Big 4: Peterson, Johnson, Rice and Jones-Drew
The consensus overall Top 4 picks in drafts this summer were Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones Drew and Ray Rice. Unfortunately for owners picking 1-4, only Peterson has been worthy of that high pick. Johnson, Rice and Jones-Drew have all struggled at times this season. When owners invested such a high pick in them, they never thought the reason their team wasn’t winning would be because of their subpar performances.
In one of my leagues, I drafted Johnson with the first overall pick. My record is currently 4-3 and I can trace back every loss to a “poopy” Johnson performance. Johnson’s not the worst offender of the Big 4. Let’s start off on a positive note though and talk about Peterson, the stud who lived up to his billing.
At this stage of the game, it’s a lock that Peterson will once again be the consensus No. 1 pick in drafts next summer. Peterson’s run for close to 700 yards and has the most rushing yards of any back in the NFL. He has five touchdowns on the season and has played excellent, even with the Minnesota Vikings being one of the most disappointing teams in the league.
On the other hand, Johnson, drafted as the No. 1 overall pick, has been a disappointment. His stats aren’t that bad. He’s run for more than 640 yards and he has seven touchdowns. Of course, if you talk to someone who actually owns Johnson, they’ll tell you a different story. Johnson’s played seven games thus far, and three of them have been absolute stinkers. He rushed for 34 yards and a fumble against Pittsburgh, two weeks later he had 54 yards and another fumble against Denver, and he had similar ineffective numbers against Philadelphia last weekend.
When you’re drafted No. 1 overall, owners don’t expect you to have good games every other week. Having only four good games out of seven is not worthy of the first pick. This week Johnson’s playing the San Diego Chargers, who have one of the top rated run defenses in the league. So there may be more heartache for Johnson owners in the near future.
After the Titans’ bye week, though, their schedule eases up considerably with matchups against Washington, Houston and Jacksonville coming up. Johnson’s playoff schedule is encouraging too with games against Indianapolis, Houston and Kansas City. By season’s end, Johnson will hopefully have erased the bad memories owners have of him alternating between good weeks and bad weeks.
Rice might be the running back of the Big 4 that I’m the most worried about. He’s currently ranked 10th in rushing and he has a paltry two touchdowns on the season. Adding insult to injury, both of Rice’s touchdowns were scored in the same game, when he rushed for 133 yards against the Denver Broncos several weeks ago. It should be mentioned this is the only time in seven games where Rice has scored and and also the only time he rushed for more than 100 yards all season long.
Last week’s alleged “comeback” game against the winless Buffalo Bills was a huge disappointment. Instead of Rice blowing up, Willis McGahee stole the show with 64 yards rushing on 11 carries and a touchdown. For those keeping score at home, McGahee has three touchdowns on the season, one more than Rice. McGahee’s parasitic relationship to Rice is starting to mirror the Tim Hightower/Chris “Beanie” Wells Conundrum in Arizona.
Going forward, Rice’s only tough matchup for the rest of the season is a Week 13 showdown with the Steelers, who he rushed for a “SuperPoopy” 20 yards against them earlier in the season. At this point, though, it doesn’t matter the matchup if Rice just isn’t producing. For me, if I owned Rice, I’d trade him because he’s become the most unreliable of the Big 4. At least with Johnson, you just have to check the previous week to see if he had a bad or good game to determine how he’ll do the following Sunday.
I’ve spoken before about how Jones-Drew is a great “Buy Lowish” player right now. He had a good game against the Kansas City Chiefs last week with 121 total yards and a touchdown. He’s been a disappointment for the first part of the season but the second half should be better as he has the greatest playoff schedule of any of the Big 4 (Oakland, Indianapolis, Washington). With Garrard getting healthy again, teams will hopefully have to respect the pass more and stop loading up the box against Jones-Drew.
His touchdowns have been low but with returning to be a significant part of the Jaguars passing offense, his touchdowns should go up. I expect big things for Jones-Drew and have already traded for him in one of my leagues.
Big 4 Conclusion
I’m predicting everybody but Rice will bounce back to some semblance of their past glory. In next year’s drafts, I’m not convinced that Rice will retain his high stature, unless McGahee is traded from the Ravens. Ahmed Bradshaw, Arian Foster and Frank Gore have all had far better seasons than Rice and they will be drafted before him, if they can keep up the production they’ve had in the first half of the season. By next year, it will no longer be the Big 4 but it may be the Big 6 plus Rice.