*In the non-quarterback category of course. This means, out of all the running backs, receivers, tight ends, and offensive linemen, is Chris Johnson better at what he does than they are at what they do? To decide this for ourselves, we first have to figure out who's number one at each position. Identifying the top competition if you will.
Starting with running back, there's really only one logical choice for who could possibly be better than CJ. Of course, I mean the ever-talented Adrian Peterson. Since Johnson joined the league in 2008, they have amassed almost 11,000 yards between the two of them and have combined for seven Pro Bowl appearances and three appearances as first teamers on the All-Pro list. To watch the rivalry between these two juggernauts blossom has been incredible. It's rare that you get two very different (but still very effective) talents that reach their peaks at the same time. It's going to be intriguing, now that both will be lining up behind rookie QB's, which one can shoulder the burden better.
I said earlier that these two have accounted for 11,000 yards combined since 2008. That's a ridiculous number, but unfortunately for AP, CJ has accounted for 5,606 of the exactly 10,949 yards between them. That's a slight advantage, so slight in fact, that it's necessary to dig a little bit deeper here. Given how similar their touchdown numbers are in that span as well, a measly four scores separate them, traditional measures of greatness just won't do here. Peterson has been an incredible player, but given how close these two are, and that's really close, for every category Peterson leads, Johnson leads in another one, I'm going to default to the guy with the 2,000 yard season. I just can't not do it. As for longevity?
I think AP might have the edge here. He definitely relies less on his speed, but then again, his physical running style makes him very susceptible to a breakdown. I think his exit from the league is going to be cold and abrupt as opposed to CJ, who I think we'll see hobble around for a couple of years and think aw, look at him, he thinks he's still got it, until he finally hangs it up. Both will be regarded as two of the best players to ever lace 'em up.
So how about receivers? Well, according to the ESPN article that started this whole thing in the first place, Andre Johnson is the best receiver in the game today. I'd say that'd hard to argue. He certainly gets competition from the other Johnson, but as a fan who watches that guy line up across from us every few weeks during the season, it's unbelievable what he can do when the ball is in his area. I shudder to think about what he could do in a system like New England's or Indy's. It's a damn shame that he probably won't ever get a ring.
So who has the better Johnson? I saw it as soon as I typed it. Let it be.
I wish I could say tossup, I really do, but I can't. For this one, I've got only one reason to pick CJ over AJ and isn't because he has better teeth. I'm just going purely on the basis that running back is a more valuable position than receiver. That's it. As far as talent goes? Well, I don't really know. It's honestly just a matter of preference. No way to quantify it. I'll say this though, CJ has started his career off on a much better note than Andre did. I suppose the case could be made that CJ is pretty much uncontested outside of AP when it comes to who is the best at his position since 2009, but that just says that receiver is just deeper league-wide than running back is.
As far as tight ends go, have we really had a tight end who's been at the top every single season, year in and year out? Over the past five years, we've had Witten, Gates, Clark, Davis, Gonzalez, and everyone in between be the best tight end in the game. I think it's hard to make a case for any of those guys being better at tight-end than CJ is at running back, but then again, I'm not really sure how one would argue one way or the other.
Finally, the offensive line. This is the toughest one for me because there's just not a stat that I can use to show favor one way or another, but I think the consensus is that Jake Long is probably the best offensive lineman in football right now. If I were to start a franchise, I'd most likely take Long over CJ, but that's not really a slight to CJ or a big boost for Long, it's just that having an outstanding left tackle like Long is imperative to success in the NFL whereas an outstanding running back isn't. I think Long certainly offers the most competition at this point, but then again, how is it possible to argue against a man who gains half the distance needed for a first down every time he touches the ball?
So in short, my results are inconclusive. It is my feeling that, all things being equal, Chris Johnson is the best non-quarterback to line up on offense. Were we dealing with Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis, or any of the other 2K+ rushers in their prime, I'd probably side with them too. It's just such a difficult feat that I find it impossible to overlook, especially after his supposed "down year" still exceeded my expectations that I had for a guy coming off a 360 carry season.