Fantasy Football Sleepers: Tennessee Titans' RB Javon Ringer Not Just a Handcuff

Tom FroemmingCorrespondent IAugust 16, 2011

Fantasy football sleeper Javon Ringer
Fantasy football sleeper Javon RingerJ. Meric/Getty Images

Fantasy football sleepers are often reserve running backs, so why is Javon Ringer of the Tennessee Titans getting passed over?

Despite the fact that his holdout continues to drag on, Titans star Chris Johnson is still being drafted as the No. 3 running back. That's tough to argue against, since whenever CJ2K is on the field he's the most dynamic player in the NFL.

The thing I take issue with is the fact that Ringer is still going undrafted in virtually every fantasy league out there—Johnson's handcuff is currently owned in just 3.7 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues.

Scooping up handcuffs has been a popular fantasy football draft strategy for years now, which makes it even more shocking more people aren't taking a flier on Ringer. Other fantasy football sleepers being drafted higher than Ringer include Jerome Harrison, Darren Sproles, Montario Hardesty, DeMarcco Murray, Ben Tate and Cadillac Williams.

Last year, the Titans were comfortable enough with Ringer as the backup to let former 1,000-yard rusher LenDale White go. In two seasons, Ringer has 59 attempts for 287 yards, a 4.9 average, and two touchdowns. He also had seven catches for 44 yards last year.

In 2008, his senior year at Michigan State, Ringer exploded for 1,800 yards from scrimmage and an NCAA-leading 22 touchdown runs. He also led all collegiate runners with 390 carries, but had minor knee surgery after the season and missed the Senior Bowl. After watching from the sidelines most of his first two seasons, the 24-year-old is fresh and ready to make an impact.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Johnson's holdout extends into Week 1, though I believe he will play the majority of the regular season. According to team General Manager Mike Reinfeldt, the Titans are willing to make Johnson the highest paid back in NFL history, but Johnson says he and his agent have received no formal offers.

According the the Associated Press, Reinfeldt is insisting that he show up to camp before they begin formal negotiations.

We told Chris and his agent we are willing to sit down and talk about a contract, but he needs to get into camp before we are willing to do that. That is kind of our position. He needs to be here with the rest of the Titans, getting ready to play games.

As much as the Titans need Johnson on the field to be competitive, they have some leverage, too. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, a player can be fined $30,000 per day he misses training camp. If the holdout drags out long enough, Johnson could be fined more than his 2011 salary. At that point, things could get ugly.

Judging from new running back coach Jim Skippers comments in The Tennessean, the team is preparing to move on without its best player.

This is the NFL. You don't harp on things. You just go with who is here, and let that situation resolve itself. On this level, there is no such thing as second team. Instead, it's, 'Who is the next guy?' And that happens to be Javon (Ringer). I think he has a great attitude, a great work ethic. The guy is a true professional who wants to do well.

Ringer's character has been praised from day one of his NFL career. He is a compact, tough runner with a style somewhat similar to Maurice Jones-Drew with less of a pedigree in the passing game.

According to The Tennessean, Titans new head coach Mike Munchak has been encouraged with what he's see from Ringer thus far.

He fits into this offense perfectly. He hits the hole quick and is great at protections. Smart kid, he's been here awhile now so obviously we're comfortable with him. He's comfortable with us, so it just gets him some opportunity to play with the first group.

With the ability and opportunity, Ringer is as good a lottery ticket you can buy among deep fantasy football sleepers. If Johnson continues to hold out, you've got yourself a starting running back. If he comes back, Ringer is still just an injury away. With Johnson having to quickly get in game shape, learn a new playbook and develop chemistry with new teammates, a freak injury could be more likely to happen.

The best thing about drafting Ringer in one of the final rounds of your draft is not only does his value have a high ceiling, but also a low floor.

In the worst case scenario, you can at least trade him to whoever drafts Johnson and starts to panic about his contract situation.