Javon Ringer is in play this week, and there are plenty of "Fantasy Football vultures" circling overhead of the Chris Johnson road kill. Before we jump too fast in on Ringer, let's take a look at whether we think he can succeed as the Titans main RB. We'll do a quick background check, and then speculate on what could happen from here...
Our summary in our 2011 Fantasy Football Draft Guide, sums up what we think of Ringer very quickly:
....Ringer probably would be a starter for many other NFL teams, but sits behind Chris Johnson for the Titans. Ringer may have been on his way to being a 1st-Round draft pick in 2009 (1,639 yards, 22 TDs his Senior season), until knee injuries sent him falling to the 5th Round. Ringer filled in behind Johnson in 2010, with some decent performances in spot chances given. In his 2 seasons in the NFL, Ringer has limited carries (59), but has averaged 4.9 ypc and a TD every 30 touches -- a 1,500 yd, 10 TD projection on a 300 carry season. Ringer graded as a strong and agile NFL RB in our analysis coming out of college, but a little on the slow side -- however, coming off knee surgery it may have been skewed. Ringer (if fully healthy) may be a complete package, but nothing we can get excited about with the great Chris Johnson ahead of him.
We had a hard time projecting Ringer to the NFL using our computer scouting analysis, because he had knee issues ending his Michigan State career, which rolled into possible issues at the NFL Combine. Ringer's Combine numbers were pretty good, and his campus Pro-Day metrics even better. Physically, translating to the NFL, we would profile Ringer as a B to a B+.
Ringer's college performance was pretty quiet for his first three seasons, then exploded in his senior year with a 1,637 yard rushing total with 22 TDs. That tally, led to talk of Ringer as a Heisman candidate throughout 2008. Ringer had some impressive overall totals, but a look inside at his individual game totals started to tell a different story. Ringer's monster games of 2008 were vs. Florida Atlantic and Eastern Michigan. Ringer also punched big games versus Indiana, Northwestern, Michigan, Purdue...but looking at Ringer's games versus the power teams in his conference -- Ringer had no 100-yard rushing games vs. OSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State...not only no 100-yard games, but more on the shut-down side of the ledger for Ringer in bigger games. In his 2008 Bowl Game vs. Georgia, Ringer was held to 47 yards on 20 carries. Ringer was a solid performer in college, but unspectacular...his output a little pumped by great stats against weaker opponents.
When you mix a weaker college performer in key games, with a knee injury, with nice physical tools...you get a 5th Round Draft pick in 2009.
Ringer has been a very nice back-up RB for the past two seasons, but now suddenly getting heavier play with the downfall of Chris Johnson. We are getting a ton of questions on Ringer this week, and here is what our guidance would be:
1) Ringer rates as a solid/above-average NFL RB to us on a talent basis, not a future superstar, but very solid/useful.
2) We like an RB with carry/target opportunity as much as their talent level, and obviously Ringer is in line for more opportunities. However, Ringer is not so stellar in our computer models that we could foresee a scenario where Ringer is such a talent in waiting, that he will wrest away the starting job and never look back. He is more of an RB of the moment. The Titans have had Ringer in camp for three seasons...if they envisioned him as a future star, they would have likely dealt with the Chris Johnson contract scenario very differently (maybe that's assigning too much on the Titans brass).
Ringer is useful now, because he has to be...CJ is killing them. In order to be a great Fantasy Football pickup, Ringer would have to get the majority of the carries/touches, but we cannot foresee that happening. There is no way CJ is not looming over this situation all the time. If you think CJ will be benched, and Ringer will be the 15+ carry RB for the Titans, or you want to gamble that, then picking up Ringer is an excellent hedge/gamble. We just do not see a world where the Titans are not trying to get Chris Johnson going, making Ringer a potentially a very risky play week-to-week.
Dynasty Leaguers with Ringer available, it's worth a shot depending upon what you are going to cut loose. It's certainly CJ insurance for those that have Johnson. We are not projecting Ringer as a future superstar, but he could find his way into becoming a starting RB somewhere down the road. His contract expires in 2012 with Tennessee. Based on his NFL performance to date (in limited opportunity) and some of his impressive physical skills, Ringer is worth taking a low-risk shot on.