Is Aaron Jones a Top-12 Running Back for Fantasy?
If we were to take a tally of all the running backs last season that were under-utilized, Aaron Jones‘ name would pop up quickly. There were a few backs that certainly qualified to make that list, including Kenyan Drake. Drake is a player whom I have talked about before. Both of these players produced when given the opportunity. However, the opportunity provided fell short of what fantasy owners were hoping for.
Is Aaron Jones a Top-12 Running Back for Fantasy?
Aaron Jones was expected to become more of a focal point for the Green Bay Packers after a few strong outings the previous season. However, he began the season serving a suspension. Enter Jamaal Williams from stage left. Williams began the season as the lead dog and handled 31 carries and six targets through the first two weeks. What he did with those carries was unimpressive. He totaled 106 yards (3.4 YPC) and 12 yards on three receptions.
Jones returned in Week 3 to an almost evenly split workload, in which he was easily the more productive back. He totaled 42 yards on six carries to Williams’ 29 yards on five carries. From there through the bye week, Mike McCarthy continued to split the carries fairly evenly, despite Jones producing better each week.
At some point during their Week 7 bye, Jones found and acquired a rather large can. A can of an unknown substance which he promptly opened during week eight.
In Week 8, Jones finished with 86 yards on 12 carries and one rushing score. That was just the beginning. From Week 8 through Week 14 Jones did not see less than 11 carries in any game. During that stretch, he scored seven touchdowns in eight games and was the RB5. His 5.48 yards-per-carry was the best in the NFL among running backs who totaled 75 or more attempts. In fact, he is averaging 5.5 YPC in both of his NFL seasons.
2019 Outlook – RBBC
There are plenty of questions about Aaron Jones’ outlook for the 2019 season. The most common question surrounds the new coaching regime. Matt LaFleur joins the Green Bay Packers as their new head coach. He has already stated that he prefers a running back by committee approach, which does not instill confidence in Jones’ outlook. When considering Jones future, one can simply analyze the past. LaFleur displayed a prime example of how to misuse a running back last season. Granted, once Derrick Henry blew up, he committed to the touches required to keep him productive.
There are a couple of reasons to not be overly concerned about the RBBC conversation in Green Bay. First and foremost, there is zero dispute about which running back is the most talented in that backfield. It does not take an NFL Scout pair of eyes to pinpoint the better of the two options. (Maybe Mike McCarthy’s contacts were foggy…for the first half of the season.) Jones simply outperformed Jamaal Williams in every statistical category last season. He’s a smart and elusive runner that has the patience to exploit an opening.
Secondly, the reports of wanting more involvement in the passing game from the running backs bodes well for Jones and his value. Sure, Williams had more targets (41) than Jones (35), but the six additional targets only led to one additional reception and four additional yards. Jones posted a better targets-per-game average (2.92) than Williams (2.56), a better catch percentage (74% to 65%) and finished with the lone receiving touchdown of the duo. Jones accomplished this in 12 games, not the 16 that Williams played.
The third point is that Jones is taking his role and his body seriously. Reports came out that Jones cut junk food out of his diet and replaced body fat with muscle. He has cut his body fat from 11% to 5.3% during the offseason. Meaning, he still weighs in at 204 but has replaced body fat with muscle.
2019 Outlook – Improvements
The Packers, as a team, should benefit from several key additions. LaFleur brings a more modern play calling scheme birthed from the minds of both Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay. While it may take a while to be fully integrated, it should prove to be more creative and play to the strengths of the current roster.
The Packers addressed the offensive line by inking Billy Turner and dropping a second-round pick on Elgton Jenkins. This was one of the smartest moves they made after watching their franchise quarterback hobble through the majority of the season. They also added key pieces on the defensive side of the football. Teams playing with a lead are more apt to control the clock, which could mean an uptick in opportunity for the run game.
Bottom Line on Aaron Jones
“Aaron Jones will also be playing in what should be an elite offense next season. Jones appears to be the most likely running back of the three to have significant volume in the rushing and passing game.He also has a safe floor because he has shown he can be an RB2 in fantasy football even while sharing the backfield with Jamaal Williams. When on the clock deciding between these three players, take the back with the highest floor and ceiling in 2019.”
Jones average draft position is currently at 3.02 in PPR drafts as the 14th running back off the board. Truthfully, this appears to more adequately represent his floor, not his ceiling. If the reigns are handed to Jones in a high-powered offense led by a healthy Aaron Rodgers, a top-six performance is not out of the question. This team is no stranger to the red zone and Jones found paydirt with great success in that role last season. It was not that long ago that Eddie Lacy was a coveted running back for fantasy purposes for these exact reasons.
With Aaron Rodgers the last 3 yrs:
No team called passes at a higher rate than GB (66%)
But no team threw fewer passes to RBs than GB (15.9%)
If LaFleur adds more RB-passes it would be tremendous. Two of the NFL's best QBs (Brady, Brees) led the NFL in RB-target rate last yr. https://t.co/VhZYuzry9M
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) June 27, 2019
LaFleur has mentioned wanting to involve the running backs more in the passing game. This again bodes very well for Jones and to a lesser degree, Williams overall value. Jones is primed for a breakout kind of season and is on the right team to bring that idea to fruition. His risk-to-cost ratio is balanced enough to make him a target in most drafts and his upside is as of yet untapped.
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