Fantasy Court: The Case For Aaron Jones in 2020
For years the fantasy football world had been clamoring for the Green Bay Packers to #FreeAaronJones. It finally happened in 2019 and, as expected, it led to a phenomenal fantasy season for Aaron Jones. Yet here we are, one offseason later, and the 2019 RB2 is going off draft boards as the RB11. While I can’t advocate for Jones to be drafted among the top three running backs, seeing him go outside of the top ten seems like an overreaction. There appear to be three narratives dragging Jones down, which I’m sure my counterpart will try to exploit.
Let examine them.
Narrative One: Rookie A.J. Dillon Will Steal Valuable Work
I’ll admit, it was a bit perplexing to see Green Bay spend such high draft capital on a running back, especially one with as many questions as Dillon. Especially when they have a Hall of Fame quarterback all but begging for more receiving options in one of the most touted wideout classes in recent memory. But that’s another story altogether.
The addition of Dillon to the Packers backfield, however, is far from a death sentence for Jones. Dillon has been compared ad nauseam to Derrick Henry, and rightly so. Head coach Matt LaFleur may want Dillon to be his Henry of the future, but let’s not forget that as a rookie Henry only carried the ball 110 times compared to the more established DeMarco Murray, who touted the rock 293 times in the same season.
Aaron Jones is on the last year of his rookie contract. There’s a good chance that Green Bay won’t want to pony up the dough to keep him around beyond 2020, especially if they believe Dillon can be their back of the future. If that is the case, they’ll have no problem giving Jones a heavy workload this season and letting him walk in 2021.
Narrative Two: Matt LaFleur is a Bad Coach for Fantasy Football
Maybe this isn’t as directly related to Jones, but the negativity swirling around LaFleur, especially in the fantasy football community, seems to be attaching itself to Jones. LaFleur may not be building a high powered offense akin to the likes of Kansas City or Arizona, but his run-heavy tendencies should be the least of worries for anybody considering drafting Jones in a fantasy football league. Green Bay had the 13th most rush attempts in the NFL last season. If LaFleur really wants to take the ball out of Rodgers’ hands and increase those rushing attempts, it will only equate to more touches for Jones.
But just more argument’s sake, let’s say the Packers run the ball less than they want to. After all, they held the lead for an average of 32:27 per game on the season and went 9-1 in one-score games last year. That isn’t likely to repeat, which means Green Bay may reluctantly have to pass the ball more often. That wouldn’t be the worst thing for Jones either.
The Packers inexplicably enter 2020 with no new pass-catchers of note. In fact, they have the eighth-most vacated targets in the NFL, something that historically tends to favor running backs. Jones accounted for a 12% target share in 2019 and did quite well with it. Just imagine if that share goes up. I like the idea of throwing the ball to this guy in space.
After Kansas City answered with a Damien Williams touchdown, Aaron Rodgers hit Aaron Jones for a 67-yard touchdown. Green Bay has a 31-24 lead. The team is -6.5 live. #GBvsKC (Video: @NFL) pic.twitter.com/YezVGh9XqC
— FOX Bet (@FOXBet) October 28, 2019
Narrative Three: Regression is Coming
I’ll concede, this narrative is true. I’m a firm believer in regression over the longterm, both negative and positive. Jones is highly unlikely to find the endzone 19 times again in 2020. I do, however, want to debunk the notion that negative regression equates to poor performance.
Jones averaged a touchdown on 6.7% of his touches in 2019, compared to his career rate of 6%. If we lower his 2019 touchdown rate to his career average, he still would’ve scored 17 touchdowns and finished as the RB5. If we go crazy and take away ten touchdowns, which would bring him down to a 3.2% touchdown per touch rate, Jones still would’ve finished as the RB8 last season.
Yes, he’ll regress in touchdowns in 2020. No, that doesn’t mean you should avoid him.
Aaron Jones is one of the most talented backs in the NFL. He plays for a coach that wants to run the ball behind one of the best-rated offensive lines in the NFL. If that plan breaks down, he’s equally as explosive in the passing game and could realistically be the second-best receiving option for a Hall of Fame quarterback. It’s a travesty that he sits outside of the top-ten in running back ADP, but it’s a travesty I and, hopefully, you will take advantage of this draft season.