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Is Aaron Jones a RB1 in 2020?

By Jared Smola 12:08pm EDT 8/26/20


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What You Need to Know:

  • Jones finished as a top-3 RB across scoring formats last year, largely on the strength of 19 TDs.
  • He became just the 10th RB to run for 15+ scores over the last 10 seasons and is a good bet for fewer TDs in 2020.
  • 2nd-round rookie A.J. Dillon joins Jamaal Williams as threats to Jones’ volume.
  • HC Matt LaFleur wants to deploy a run-leaning offense in Green Bay.


A monster 2019

Jones was a fantasy league-winner last year. A 3rd-round pick in most drafts, he ended up ranking 2nd among RBs in PPR points and 3rd in non-PPR. Jones had some monster weeks, finishing as a top 3 PPR back 5 times. He failed to crack the top 20 in just 5 of his 16 outings.

Jones was excellent on the ground, ranking 11th league-wide with 1,084 yards. His 4.6 yards per carry was 15th best among 45 RBs with 100+ attempts. Jones ranked21st in Elusive Rating and 5th in Pro Football Focus’ rushing grades.

He was even more impressive in the passing game. Jones’ 49 catches ranked 13th among RBs; his 474 receiving yards were good for 8th. He hauled in 72.1% of his targets and averaged a big 9.7 yards per catch — 7th among 43 RBs with 30+ targets. Jones ranked 13th among those 43 RBs in yards per route run and 7th in Pro Football Focus’ receiving grades.

But it was the 19 total TDs that really fueled Jones’ big fantasy season. That was tied with Christian McCaffrey for tops among RBs. Jones hit pay dirt at least once in 10 of 16 games. He scored multiple times in 6 different outings, including 3- and 4-TD explosions.


TD regression incoming

Jones will have trouble repeating that fantasy production in 2020, though. Let’s start with those TDs, which are a near lock to regress. Jones last year became the 10th RB to run for 15+ scores over the past 10 seasons. Christian McCaffrey and Derrick Henry joined him. But each of the other 7 saw their TDs decline the following year — often by a significant amount. In fact, only 2 of those 7 managed even double-digit TDs the next season.

It’s simply tough to repeat that level of TD production. Jones is an even bigger regression candidate because his 16 rushing scores last year came on 236 carries. That’s a massive 6.8% rushing TD rate. To put it in perspective, the league-wide rushing TD rate for RBs over the past 3 seasons is less than half of that at 3.2%. Give Jones that rate last year and he scores 7.6 times. Jones himself registered a 5.6% rushing TD rate over his first 2 seasons. At that mark last year, he scores 13.2 times. Something in between those 2 numbers seems like a fair projection for 2020.


Competition

Now let’s talk volume. Jones ranked 15th in carries and 11th in targets among RBs last year. Good marks, but less than you’d expect from a guy who finished as a top-3 fantasy back. So we’d already expect his numbers to tail off a bit on similar volume.

But Jones is at risk of getting the ball less in 2020. First, he got a boost last year in the 3 games Jamaal Williams missed all or most of. Jones averaged 19.0 carries and 7.0 targets in those outings vs. 13.8 carries and 3.6 targets in the other 13. So a healthy Williams is a threat to siphon touches this season.

Then there’s A.J. Dillon, who the Packers spent a 2nd-round pick on this spring. The Boston College product didn’t impress us on tape. But he did average 1,461 yards and 12.7 TDs per year on 5.2 yards per carry over 3 college seasons. He goes 6’0, 247 pounds and blazed a 4.53-second 40 time with strong marks in the vertical and broad jumps to earn a 97th percentile SPARQ score. Dillon isn’t a serious threat to steal targets after catching just 21 balls over 3 seasons at Boston College. But he’s at least a candidate for goal-line work. And the draft capital invested in him suggests he might be more than that.


Run-leaning offense

The good news for Jones is that the Packers want to be a run-focused offense. GM Brian Gutekunst said so himself.

“I think [HC Matt LaFleur has] talked to you guys repeatedly about how much he’d like to run the ball and have the pass work off of that,” Gutekunst told reporters in April.

The 2019 Packers ranked 18th in run rate and 13th in rush attempts. It sounds like they want to lean even more toward the run in 2020. So Jones could garner similar rushing volume even if his share of the total attempts declines.


Draft Sharks Bottom Line:

Jones is coming off a top-3 fantasy season but doesn’t sit nearly that high in our 2020 rankings. He’s a near lock for TD regression after scoring 19 times last season. And the presence of Jamaal Williams and 2nd-round rookie A.J. Dillon threaten his volume.

But HC Matt LaFleur wants to be a run-leaning offense. And Jones has been awesome through 3 NFL seasons, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 8.4 yards per catch. So it wouldn’t make sense for Green Bay to scale back his workload much.

Jones makes an excellent RB2 and a fine RB1 in the 2nd round of fantasy drafts.


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