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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fantasy football: How Chris Johnson's holdout affects Round 1

In our post-lockout look at the first round of a 12-team fantasy football league, we had Chris Johnson ranked third overall -- behind Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson.

It was a close No. 3 -- the distance between Foster and Johnson was roughly the same as the tight bond between LeBron James and Akron (he's not from Cleveland, he's from Akron, as he's told us over and over and over again).

Now, with Johnson and the Titans embroiled in a contract dispute -- albeit a mild one, since the team has publicly said it's willing to make the dreadlocked speedster the highest-paid running back in the league -- you might have a very difficult decision to make on draft day.

If Johnson still hasn't reported to the Titans by next weekend, when more and more leagues begin to hold their drafts, he has to drop at least slightly in the early drafts.

We had Ravens running back Ray Rice ranked fourth overall in the early top 12, followed by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles.

Depending on your feelings about taking a quarterback in the first round, Johnson could slide to at least No. 5 if he's holding out, since Rice, especially in point-per-reception leagues, is worthy of the No. 3 overall pick.

I wouldn't take Rodgers over Johnson unless the league in question awards six points for a touchdown pass, not four. In leagues in which every TD is worth six points, Rodgers -- who threw for 289 yards or more in nine games last season and had eight games with at least two TD passes -- and Michael Vick might be the top two scorers in 2011.

As long as Johnson returns in time for the regular season, there should be little concern he will be productive without a training camp.

Even though his 2010 season didn't live up to his ridiculous numbers from 2009 (2,006 yards rushing, 5.4 yards per carry, 16 total TDs, plus 50 catches for 503 yards), Johnson still ran for 1,364 yards, caught 44 passes for 245 yards and had 12 combined rushing and receiving TDs.

ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported those close to Johnson believe he should be paid as one of the top playmakers in the league -- not just the top running back. Chris Mortensen has added that C.J. wants a contract in which he will make an average of $13 million in the first three years.

The Vikings' Peterson is the NFL's highest-paid back at $10.2 million this season, and he is scheduled to become a free agent next year and will surely get in the neighborhood of $13 million or more per season that Johnson so covets.

At 25 and with only 925 career carries, the Titans certainly should feel comfortable enough to give Johnson a huge contract, rather than risk a lengthy holdout and/or an unhappy camper.

If 28-year-old DeAngelo Williams -- who has rushed for more than 1,117 yards once in his career and is coming off a season in which he played six games -- can get a five-year, $43 million contract with $21 million in guarantees, C.J. will get paid, and paid very well.

The question is when?

The other is how long are you willing to wait if you are selecting third or fourth overall?

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