What to do with Chris Johnson and Peyton Manning?


Fantasy owners who have their drafts this weekend should have a plan for how they'll handle Chris Johnson and Peyton Manning. Both players have serious questions surrounding their Week 1 availability and their stock has taken a hit as a result. But how far should they fall? When does the savvy owner strike and roll the dice on a fantasy star with a black cloud hanging over his head?
In case you've been living under a rock (where did that saying come from, anyway?), Johnson is holding out for "playmaker" money, which is apparently much, much more than "highest-paid RB" money. He and the Titans are not close on a deal and things are looking pretty grim. But we still have a couple of weeks until the first game so there is time to get something done.
Meanwhile, Manning's recovery from neck surgery is enough of an issue to prompt the Colts to convince Kerry Collins to come out of retirement. This is either 1) a sign that the Colts don't feel good about Manning's availability in Week 1, or 2) an indictment of Curtis Painter, the team's former QB2. As is usually the case in life, it's probably a combination of the two.
We are hearing reports that in some recent drafts CJ2K has been falling into the second round, in the #14-#18 area. The ADP Draft Planner reveals that for the last week, Johnson was available at 1.12 9% of the time, compared to just 5.1% of the time when we include all drafts. 4for4 currently has Johnson as the #8 RB in both standard and PPR leagues. 
At this point, I'd rather have any of the other top 6 RBs (Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy) along with Rashard Mendenhall and Darren McFadden. Mendy carries virtually no risk while DMC has Johnson's upside and the same risk for missed games (due to injury). So I would start thinking about Johnson at #8 in both standard and PPR formats. Over the last week, he has been available at 1.08 23% of the time.
Johnson might miss a game or two, but the two sides should be able to get something done before the season starts. I doubt this drags out into Week 4 or Week 5, but stranger things have happened. If you do decide to lay a bet on the high risk RB, be sure to back him up with Javon Ringer and Jamie Harper, if you can. Both players will come at a premium as long as Johnson is sidelined, but you need to have the insurance.
As for Manning, we're moving him down in our rankings to the #9 slot, behind Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo and Matt Ryan, but still ahead of Josh Freeman. I feel like Freeman is a bit unproven and carries his own risk, so if I'm sitting there with a choice between Manning and Freeman, I'll probably go with Manning knowing that I can get through the first week or two with my backup if he's still sidelined, knowing that I'll have Peyton for the fantasy playoffs.
Those owners who wait on a QB probably won't have to make that decision because someone will pull the trigger on Peyton in the 5th or 6th round, but it's something to think about in case he really starts to slip.
Fantasy owners have to balance risk and reward in virtually every decision they make, and the Johnson and Manning situations are no different. If you pull the trigger on one of these guys and they come back to play 15 or 16 games, you'll look like a genius. Then again, if Johnson's holdout lasts until midseason or Peyton's neck is a problem all year, you won't look so smart.
Such is the life of a fantasy football owner.
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