By Brendan Taffe
Every year, a handful of players lose a significant amount of value as soon as the NFL Draft happens. A new, younger, rookie is drafted to the same position by the same team as your RB2 or WR3 and his value immediately tanks. I am here this week to defend some of those players.
Aaron Jones – RB, Green Bay Packers
Why his value dropped: AJ Dillon & TD regression
He is finally free! With Matt LaFleur as the Packers’ new head coach, Jones took over the starting gig. The decision to give Jones more touches was a good one because he finished as the second-best running back in fantasy football. Last year, Aaron Jones led the league with 16 rushing scores and tied Christian McCaffrey with 19 total touchdowns from scrimmage. It is a consensus that he will not replicate that total from last year. He has the ability and will likely have the opportunity to repeat the feat, but even if he does not, he will still be an elite fantasy option. Only six running backs had more yards from scrimmage than Jones last year. Half of those players are Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, and Nick Chubb. Cook is still yet to finish an entire year, Fournette is on one of the worst offenses in the league, and Chubb will now compete with Kareem Hunt for the whole season.
Many people see Aaron Jones as a guy who only scores from inside the 10-yard line. Although there is some data to support this claim, it is mostly untrue. Last season, he was PFF’s highest-graded RB on runs inside the 10, and nobody has graded better inside the red zone since he debuted in 2017. Out of his 32 career touchdowns, 12 have come from outside the 10-yard line. Last year, he ran for 56 yards into the end zone and caught one for 67 yards, which resulted in a score. With nothing but question marks behind Davante Adams, Aaron Jones will still be heavily involved in the passing game. His 68 targets from last year are not in jeopardy.
Rookie AJ Dillon presents Matt LaFleur with a very different type of running back. At six feet and 247 pounds with legs that look like pillars of the Roman Colosseum, Dillon is unlike just about every other back in the league. His closest comparison is Derrick Henry, but Henry was a more highly touted prospect and is the absolute best-case scenario for Dillon. If he is going to eat into anyone’s usage, it will be Jamaal Williams, not Aaron Jones. While 37.5% of Jones’ career touchdowns have come from outside the 10, only 20% of Williams’ TDs have been outside that mark. In a year when rookies are at an even more significant disadvantage than usual, Dillon should not be much of a threat to Aaron Jones.
The worst-case scenario for Jones owners is that Jamaal Williams keeps his role, and Dillon immediately cuts into Jones’ goal-to-go work. That would presumably put a cap on his touchdown ceiling, right? As most of the NFL passes more and more, the Packers will be doing the opposite. Packers GM Brian Gutekunst told The Athletic, “I think (Matt LaFleur’s) talked to you guys repeatedly about how much he’d like to run the ball and have the pass work off of that.” On August 16th, NFL Insider Ian Rapoport reported that resigning Jones is a “priority.” Teams do not spend their second-round draft pick on a running back, then extend the contract of their current starter, if they do not plan on running the ball more. Knowing LaFleur’s history of running the Titans’ offense, this is no surprise.
As of right now, Jones projects to be the 10th best running back, and he is going as the RB11. He scored 290 fantasy points last year and is only projected for 198 this year. That would be a 32% decrease from last year, and I do not see that happening. If ten other running backs are already off the board, pull the trigger and be happy you got away with a steal.
Brendan Taffe – Dynasty/Podcast
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