The Case Against Matt Jones
The question isn’t whether or not you should draft Matt Jones. The question is whether or not Matt Jones is worth his current draft position in the fourth to fifth round. The buzz word you’re going to hear a lot about Matt Jones is ‘opportunity.’ Andre Johnson, Demarco Murray, Melvin Gordon, Davante Adams, and Charles Johnson all had ‘opportunity’ last year, but disappointed fantasy owners. Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. I am going to use facts and not rosy projections to prove that an average talent with an average opportunity in Washington is not worth your 4th or 5th Round pick.
Facts of the Case
Fact: Jones was the seventh RB off the board in the 2015 NFL draft.
Analysis: Jones was taken by Washington with the 95th overall pick. NFL.com’s scouting report said: “More grinder than every-down back. Will hit it downhill, but has very little feel for maximizing run creases. Blind to open running lanes. Drops head and burrows into blockers and defenders rather than seeing open space. Must improve patience in setting up blocks. Can juke and shift when headed to line of scrimmage, but doesn’t show much creativity and shiftiness once he’s at the second level. Needs to keep ball tucked and secured to avoid fumbling issues.” Scouting reports are never certain, but were vision and fumbling issues a problem for Jones in his rookie year?
Fact: 144 carries for 490 yards (3.4 yards per carry)
Analysis: Jones flashed on some big plays, but still only managed 3.4 ypc. A declining Alfred Morris managed 3.7 ypc by comparison. What may be more disturbing is how Jones performed against the 10 worst rush defenses in the NFL. Here are Jones’ stats from those games:
Fact: 5 fumbles on 163 touches
Analysis: Are you kidding me? A guy with 8 5/8” hands that was cited as having fumbling issues in scouting reports loses the rock once out of every 32 touches. Ball security is a common problem for rookies, but this is exceptionally poor and no fluke.
Fact: The Washington Redskins Running Back Unit places last in Pro Football Focus (PFF) Ranks.
Analysis: Jones turned in an eight place finish on PFF’s elusiveness ratings for rookie running backs, and fell well short with a 66th-best RB overall grade out of 69 qualifying running backs. In the blurb, PFF goes on to say “the [Washington] running backs continually let them down with poor reads and little creativity.” Those words should sound familiar. They’re almost verbatim what NFL.com said in Jones’ scouting report.
Fact: PFF graded the Washington Redskins offensive line 15th in 2015.
Analysis: The Washington offensive line was average last year. Washington did nothing to improve the offensive line, which returns Kory Lichtensteiger-the lowest graded center according to PFF. The center position is vital for a plodding power running back like Jones. An average running back behind an average offensive line is a recipe for mediocrity.
Fact: Chris Thompson is the presumed third-down back.
Analysis: I won’t mention Thompson’s 6.2 ypc last year since he only had a very small sample size with 35 rushes, but he also had 35 receptions and some are looking for a Dion Lewis like breakout from him. Even if Jones does retain his job, his touches (especially receptions) will be limited by Thompson.
Fact: Matt Jones is not a lock as the starter.
Analysis: Washington may have let go of Alfred Morris, but they drafted Keith Marshall out of Georgia who was highly recruited out of high school and flashed during his freshman year with the Bulldogs. The wheels literally fell off when Marshall tore an ACL during his sophomore year and reinjured it his junior year. Rather than try for another year at Georgia, Marshall declared for the draft. Now fully healed from his knee injuries, Marshall turned in a combine performance for the books where he scored a SPARQ in the 91st percentile including a 40 time and speed score in the 100th percentile. By the way, Marshall is healthy and in training camp. On top of the competition with Marshall, Thompson, and practice squad member Mack Brown, Jones also has to dodge the possibility of a veteran free agent signing. Jay Gruden went out of his way to leave that door open.
Fact: Washington had 30 passing TDs, but only 9 rushing TDs.
Analysis: Washington threw at least one passing TD in every game last year on their way to 30 total passing TDs. They scored 9 TDs on the ground and only 4 of those came during the last eight games of the season. The addition of first round rookie Josh Doctson and a healthy DeSean Jackson only makes this team more equipped to command the game through the air.
Fact: Matt Jones’ ADP is 4.12
Analysis: Even if you believe Matt Jones will improve on his chronic fumbling problems, garner the lion’s share of backfield touches, run behind an improved offensive line, and develop vision and creativity, you still need to draft him ahead of several players with proven track records. Jones is being drafted in standard scoring ahead of Ryan Mathews, Frank Gore, and Justin Forsett who are all clear lead backs on their respective teams. Jones is also ahead of players that may not have a lock on lead back duties but come with a higher ceiling like Arian Foster, DeAngelo Williams, Melvin Gordon, Ameer Abdullah, Jeremy Hill, and Giovani Bernard. There’s a link to nearly every one of these RBs for a reason and they come cheaper than Jones.
Matt Jones is not a terrible player and Washington is not a terrible team, but this is where talent and opportunity are not sufficient to warrant a pick in the early rounds. Nothing is ever certain in fantasy football, but your first five or six picks should be as close to a lock as possible to form the foundation of your team. Use your mid to late round picks on riskier guys with upside, but taking Jones before the 8th or 9th Round is an unnecessary gamble on a mediocre talent running behind a mediocre offensive line on a team that will need to air it out to remain competitive. The NFL has very little tolerance for a running back that fumbles more times than he scores and can’t consistently exceed 4.0 ypc and you should be equally intolerant especially in the 4th Round of your draft.