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The Year After (or why you shouldn't draft Chris Johnson No.1)

History is not on your side with Chris Johnson.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Over this past offseason, Tennessee running back Chris Johnson, the most recent member of the "2,000 Yard Rushing Club" was quoted saying, "You have to take me first in your draft or you are going to lose." And most owners would agree with him.

However, you should beware of getting your wish, because history is not on your side.

If we look at the top-five passing and rushing seasons of all-time to see what the player did the following year, the results might disturb you and ruin your dream of Johnson leading you to a fantasy championship.

The year after the five top passing seasons, the passers, who are either already in the Hall-of-Fame or likely going to be, saw a drop in passing yards of 49.5% (25,591 vs. 12,915) and a drop in touchdown passes of 58.2% (201 vs. 84). Three of the five quarterbacks (Kurt Warner, Tom Brady, Dan Fouts) suffered injuries which cut their season short.

The news isn't any better for running backs.

Eric Dickerson, Jamal Lewis, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis and O.J. Simpson couldn't even put up 50% of their previous totals. Their combined yards dropped from 10,235 to 5,066 and their touchdown total took the biggest hit of all - a 61.1% drop from 72 scores to just 28.

As with the quarterbacks, three of the five running backs played less than a complete schedule with Davis heading the list by playing in only the Broncos' first four games of the season.

As for whether Johnson's totals will continue the trend, let's investigate further.

Johnson's quarterback is Vince Young, who isn't mistaken for any of the top throwers in the league. And with a mediocre set of receivers, it's likely that Johnson will see a stacked line all year. Johnson also scored from long distance, over 50 yards, a total of seven times last season. That's a performance which will be hard to duplicate in 2010.

There is also a question of "over-usage." Johnson isn't a big guy, 5'11", 195 lbs, but he carried the ball 358 times last season and also caught 50 balls. That's a lot of touches and the most by any running back in three seasons.

The last three times a running back had 400+ touches, the following year didn't go well. It was 2006 and LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson and Steven Jackson all posted "monster seasons." When they tried to duplicate their effort the next season, the results were disappointing. Tomlinson was the best of the three, but his rushing total fell from 1,815 yards and 28 touchdowns to 1,474 yards and 15 touchdowns. Not a bad total, but nothing like the previous year.

Meanwhile, Larry Johnson went from 1,789 yards and 17 TDs, to 559 yards and three TDs and Jackson dropped from 1,528 yards and 13 TDs to 1,002 yards and five TDs. Neither played a full 16-game schedule.

What do all these statistics mean?

It means that expecting another huge season from Johnson might be too much to ask. That quite possibly, Adrian Peterson or Maurice Jones-Drew might be the better fantasy running back in 2010.

Top-Five Passing/Rushing Seasons and the Following Year
Player Team Years Rush-Rush TD-TD Pass-Pass TD-TD
Dan Marino MIA 1984-1985 5,084-4,137 48-30
Drew Brees NO 2008-2009 5,069-4,388 34-34
Kurt Warner STL 2001-2002 4,830-1,431 36-3
Tom Brady NE 2007-2008 5,806-76 50-0
Dan Fouts SD 1981-1982 4,802-2,883 33-17
Eric Dickerson LAR 1984-1985 2,105-1,234 14-12
Jamal Lewis BAL 2003-2004 2,066-1,006 14-7
Barry Sanders DET 1997-1998 2,053-1,491 11-4
Terrell Davis DEN 1998-1999 2,008-211 21-2
OJ Simpson BUF 1973-1974 2,003-1,125 12-3


Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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