Ladies and gentlemen, we have officially made it a quarter of the way through the NFL season. If you’ve kept up with the previous Rushing Reports before this, thank you. Welcome to the fourth installment! Things are really starting to take shape across the leagues and with that, we’re just getting warmed up. Week four brought us yet another week of some backfield situations to evaluate.
This week we’ll dive into a team that still has owners a little shook: The Green Bay Packers. The Packers have one of the most talented backfields in the NFL but have yet to amount to dominance in the run game. As usual, we’ll take a look at stats, usage, and game script to help us evaluate and predict what to expect for fantasy owners. Let’s get to it.
Fantasy Football Rushing Report: Week 4
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay has been a hot topic around the league. With a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, it’s hard not to be. However, it’s not Rodgers and the passing game that has been a question. It’s the running back trio of Aaron Jones, Ty Montgomery, and Jamaal Williams that has fantasy owners buzzing. The first two weeks of the season, owners saw Williams and Montgomery share the workload while Jones served a two-game suspension. Neither guy separated themselves as a clear-cut option on the field or for fantasy owners. In not doing so, that left the door open for offseason hype machine Aaron Jones to potentially claim the backfield. The hype is quickly becoming real and week four left us some fantasy nuggets to prove it.
Week Four Recap
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) September 30, 2018
Week 4 brought in a hot Buffalo Bills team coming off a stunning win over the Minnesota Vikings. Regardless, this still looked like a plus matchup for the Packers at home. The Packers came out ready to roll on defense and quickly stopped Josh Allen and the Bills on their first two drives. To the disappointment of fantasy owners, Jamaal Williams got the start for the fourth straight game. Ty Montgomery also saw the field early in the game on passing downs. The two backs split work with Williams seeing the majority up until the end of the first quarter. Insert the explosive Aaron Jones. Jones came in with 1:27 left to play in the first and ripped off a huge 30 yard gain on the ground. Things only went up from there.
Jones remained the centerpiece of the offense going into the second quarter. He helped lead the Packers down the field on a crucial scoring drive. One that resulted in Jones’ first rushing TD of the year. Williams saw small work throughout the rest of the game but was mostly used in pass protection. Montgomery saw limited snaps the rest of the game as well but was still relevant in the passing game.
Due to the defense creating a positive game script, the Packers were able to open up the playbook. This allowed all three backs to get a good piece of the action as all three were used for different situations throughout the game. Although a positive outing for the trio of backs, their usage has been a nightmare through four weeks. Even in plus matchups and positive game script, the Packers just refuse to give the ball to their best players. However, the data is starting to tell us differently.
What The Data Tells Us
Jones has clearly passed the eye test as the most talented runner of the Packers backfield. He broke off some explosive plays and converted on several key third downs against the Bills. In week four he totaled 11 rush attempts for 65 yards and one rushing TD. He averaged 5.9 Yards Per Carry (YPC) on the day and also broke off a 17 yard gain through the air on his only reception of the game.
The heat map above shows Jones’ efficiency through his first two games and its GOOD. He has had success running between the tackles even on limited work. Through two weeks, the data tells us that Jones is more than capable of being an every-down runner. He just needs more volume. On the plus side, His volume has steadily increased from week three (17 snaps/24.6%) to week four (29 snaps/38.2%). The volume isn’t quite what owners want to see out of Jones but he did out snap both Montgomery and Williams in week four. A trend that looks to continue. On the year, Jones has 17 attempts for 107 yards, one rushing TD, and two receptions for 22 yards.
Montgomery is the most versatile of the three. His experience in the past as a WR has helped solidify his role in the passing game. In week four, he was primarily used in spread sets and on passing downs. He was also the most limited of the three on the ground with just five rushes for 18 yards against the Bills. He made his presence known through the air totaling two receptions for 56 yards on three targets. Most of his yards coming on a 43-yard reception in the first quarter.
Montgomery’s ability as a pass catcher is his saving grace to be a part of the Packers backfield. His aDOT score (2.20) through four games tells us the Packers continuously use Montgomery in short yardage passing situations. The heat map above also shows he’s been more than efficient in that area. Montgomery has seen the least volume in the run game of the three with only 16 rush attempts through four weeks. He has also seen a pretty big dip in Market Share (MS) of the offense from week one (38.3% of snaps) to week four (26.3% of snaps). Having Montgomery on the field opens up the offense to be more versatile through the air. That alone will be enough to keep him a part of the offensive plan. Montgomery has 16 rushes for 72 yards and 11 receptions for 135 receiving yards on the season.
Willimas is the outlier in this Packers backfield. In Jones’ absence, he was dubbed the starter and never really “awed” owners with his performances. Williams racked up just 27 yards on 11 rush attempts and had 0 targets against the Bills. Even with his poor play, he maintained a 36.8% of the offense MS seeing 28 total snaps against the Bills. The real question owners want to know is why?
Williams has a spell over the Packers coaching staff and no one knows exactly how. He has gotten the nod as the starting back in all four games this season and has been mediocre, to say the least. The heat map above shows just how inefficient Williams has been in the run game. Averaging well below four YPC everywhere except the middle of the field. Williams has totaled 47 rush attempts for 162 yards and is averaging 3.4 YPC on the season. He also has five receptions for just 28 yards in that span. Those numbers are egregious. Williams has seen a week-to-week dip in snap % since Jones came back. In week one he saw 61.7% of offensive snaps to seeing just 36.8% in week four. With Jones back, it looks to be only a matter of time before Williams is phased out of the offense.
Aaron Jones insertion into the backfield has been a slow one but the data doesn’t lie. He has been the most efficient back when on the field. His week four performance proved that. The key to him being a week-to-week fantasy star is his volume and usage. Competing with Williams for snaps shouldn’t be a problem in the coming weeks. Especially if Jones continues with similar production as he did in week four. Despite missing two games, he already leads the trio in average fantasy PPG in 2018. A breakout game for Jones is coming and owners would be wise to snag him while they still can. Jones is a must-start in week five against Detroit. The Lions defense ranks dead last in rush defense and gives up an average of 157 yards on the ground.
Montgomery has cemented himself as the go-to pass catcher out of the backfield and that likely won’t change throughout the season. He hasn’t seen the MS that he deserves but could see an uptick when Jamaal Williams is rendered obsolete. With both Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb at risk for missing week five, Montgomery is a FLEX worthy play against the Lions. After Jones takes over the backfield, Montgomery will likely have more consistent PPR appeal if he can lock up the RB2 role.
Jamaal Williams has clearly not been able to handle the workload he was given. His inefficiency and declining snap % make him a near droppable player at this point. The week five matchup against the Lions may provide Williams owners with some last minute fantasy value if game script allows. After this week, Williams will likely disappear into oblivion.