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Larry Johnson

Kansas City Chiefs Running Back

Only two shorts years ago, Larry Johnson was considered by many for the #1 overall pick in fantasy football drafts. Two years later, Johnson is a low first round selection.

Larry Johnson was considered 1a with Ladainian Tomlinson just two years ago. But the Chiefs lost two Hall-of-Fame offensive linemen and a veteran quarterback since then, and their team is hardly considered a playoff contender anymore.

Johnson also broke down last year after having 400+ touches in 2006. History shows that runners who carry the ball 370+ times break down the next year, and those who carry 400+ are often never the same runner. Johnson hasn’t played that many years as the starting runner (backup to Priest Holmes for several years), so he shouldn’t be wearing out.

Unfortunately, he might be. Johnson is a big runner who runs upright (and therefore gets his more solidly than shifty, low-to-the-ground runners), so he’s taken a pounding the past three years. Also, Brodie Croyle (the likely starting quarterback) doesn’t strike much fear into defenses, so Johnson will see the defense stacked against him most of the year (despite the emergence of Dwayne Bowe and the continuing presence of Tony Gonzales as targets for Croyle).

Johnson is still one of the most talented runners in the league, and Herm Edwards (the coach) loves to run the ball, so he should get his touches. But expect Larry Johnson to have an up-and-down, feast or famine season, much like Corey Dillon used to when he was with the bad Cincinnati Bengals team.

Larry Johnson – College Career

Larry Johnson - Fantasy Football Larry JohnsonLarry Johnson, of course, is the running back for the Kansas City Chiefs. He was the 27th pick overall in the 2003 NFL Draft. Johnson attended Penn State University and had an illustrious college career. In the 2002 season he rushed for over 2,000 yards and his 8.02 average yards per carry broke Mike Rozier�s record who was winner of the 1983 Hiesman.

Johnson got to the 2,000 yards mark in the Big Ten Conference game against Michigan State. He did it in only 19 attempts gaining 279 yards all during the first half.

Despite all the records being attained and broken, he did not receive the 2002 Heisman; some believe it to be the media bias against Penn State. After these terrific seasons he entered the 2003 NFL Draft and was picked by the Kansas City Chiefs, much to the chagrin of Coach Dick Vermeil, who wanted a defensive player. Vermeil saw little reason to take Larry Johnson, since the team already had the highly productive Priest Holmes.

Larry Johnson – Kansas City Chief

After public altercations between player and coach, Johnson got his time to shine. Both Priest Holmes and Derrick Blaylock were injured, and Johnson became the first player to rush for over 150 yards in his first 3 games. The following season (2005) was similar. With Priest Holmes out injured, Johnson stepped up and had an amazing season, including 9 consecutive games with 100 plus yards.

Larry Johnson passed the 100 plus mark in every start he had that season, giving him a berth in the Pro Bowl. He even set a new franchise record with 1,750 yards despite not starting in seven games. Since Holmes had been out for most of the past two seasons, the 2006 season saw Johnson become the featured running back.

He was second in the league for rushing yards with 1,789 on 416 carries, the most ever in an NFL season. He again received a spot in the Pro Bowl despite only getting 30 yards in 13 carries in the playoff games against the Colts.

The 2007 season saw Johnson receive a new contract with the Chiefs, which tied him to the team until the 2012 season. He had a decent fantasy season until week nine, when he was sidelined with a foot injury which kept him out for the remainder of the season.

Larry Johnson – 2009 Fantasy Football Report

Larry Johnson can’t have a more personally disastrous season in 2009 than he did in 2008, unless Chiefs teammate Bernard Pollard wipes out his knee in the 1st quarter of Week 1, like Pollard did with Tom Brady last year.

Larry Johnson had trouble getting on the field at times, as Herm Edwards and Karl Peterson sent message after message to LJ that they weren’t happy with his conduct on and off the field. Luckily, Larry Johnson gets a fresh start with Todd Haley and Scott Pioli.  

The early word out of Kansas City Chiefs camp is a little contradictory. Fans are reporting that Jamaal Charles is looking fast and should get more touches this year. At the same time, Jackie Battle is listed as #2 on the depth chart ahead of Jamaal Charles.

Let me suggest that no one look at the Chiefs Depth Chart right now, or at least put much stock in it. New Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Todd Haley is trying to show there’s a new sheriff in town and he’s trying to make a statement to players right now. For instance, the Chiefs biggest talent on offense is Dwayne Bowe and Bowe is listed as a 2nd stringer, because Bowe hasn’t bought into the "better conditioning" and no nonsense policy just yet.

Remember that Todd Haley was the same guy who got sideways with Terrell Owens when Owens was a Dallas Cowboy and Haley was a Cowboys’ assistant. Now lot’s of people have those run-ins with Owens, but word was that Todd Haley got back in T.O.’s face. So you never know when Larry Johnson gets sideways with Haley, and for a guy who kept getting into trouble with the law last year – that stuff isn’t going to fly.

That being said, I think Todd Haley and Scott Pioli are smart guys, smart enough that they won’t take LJ off the field when the Chiefs Offense starts to approach the goal line – like Herm Edwards did at several times last year. Without Tony Gonzales, I think the Chiefs are going to want some veterans on the field, so expect Larry Johnson to have better TD numbers in 2009.

That being said, there’s Jamaal Charles likely to get more carries at some point, and a bad Chiefs offense without Tony Gonzales (but with Matt Cassell) and the chance Larry Johnson punches a woman in a bar again and gets suspended for a month. So lay off Larry Johnson until the 5th round and, by all means, don’t make him a centerpiece of your 2009 fantasy football season.

If LJ goes 4th round or higher, just be glad that’s pushing a better risk down to your next pick.

Larry Johnson Scouting Report

Chiefs Larry Johnson - Kansas City Larry JohnsonJohnson typically starts the season slow but builds up a head of steam as the year progresses. The offensive line has drastically improved from last year but probably wont open up as many holes as the offensive line of 2005.

Maybe if the OL can improve the way that Cleveland�s did last year, Johnson could get himself and NFL rushing title. The Chiefs drafted Branden Albert out of Virginia to help bolster their offensive line, so it is in a rebuilding process.

The good thing about the foot injury sustained last year is that it has had plenty of time to heal and he should be exploding out the shoots this year. If you pick him just pray that he doesn�t aggravate the foot injury, though it is highly unlikely. The Chiefs drafted Jamaal Charles out of Texas as a backup. Charles is smallish for the NFL, but his speed and quickness could make him a change-of-pace back to help lighten the load somewhat for Larry Johnson.

Larry Johnson 2008 Projection

Even though we can�t project what he would have ended with last year he did only rush for 559 yards in 158 carries and 3 touchdowns in 8 games. How would he have finished?

This reverts back to the fact that he usually starts off slowly, hopefully that is the case. The quarterback situation hasn�t improved much from past seasons and that doesn�t bold well for Johnson either as defenses will sure up there holes to insure Johnson doesn�t get anywhere.

Kansas City has brought in former Dallas Cowboys head coach Chan Gailey for the offense and he has said he is going to make Johnson the man the offense is based on. Johnson could go either way this upcoming year, and a lot depends on the offensive line for Johnson to get those numbers from two seasons ago.

He�ll be a solid running back but will probably go a little too early with the 2005 season still fresh in peoples minds. Larry Johnson should be observed as a high risk, high reward fantasy prospect. If you’re drafting low in the first round, you might have to bite the bullet and draft Johnson, hoping he can overcome injury and a bad offense to capture some of the glory from the past.

Kansas City Chiefs- Larry Johnson
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