What to Expect From Aaron Jones in 2020 (Fantasy Football)
Aaron Jones was an absolute monster in 2019. His four touchdown affair in Week 5 is something that I will never forget. I was facing off against him in one of my leagues that plays strictly for pride amongst my lifelong friend group, which arguably matters more than any prize money ever could. That hurt quite a bit, but it was impressive so I couldn’t stay mad for long.
Jones is a lock to be drafted in the top ten at his position this year, but the question is: should he? It’s not a simple answer since fantasy football can be a confusing and difficult thing to project year over year, especially when touchdown outliers enter the conversation. But for context going forward, this is where I chose to set the bar for this examination. I wanted to know whether or not he should be a top ten running back on draft day. Brace yourself if you hate numbers.
Concern #1: Incoming Touchdown Regression
Jones’ 19-touchdown campaign last season was impressive in many aspects, but it was also extremely rare. In the last decade, 74 players have finished the season with double-digit rushing touchdown totals, but only 23 of them did it with less than 250 attempts. Jones is in a pretty exclusive club already, but the real trouble comes in when you look at how many guys have done it twice. There have only been four running backs to repeat this feat since 2009, and only BenJarvus Green-Ellis did it in back-to-back seasons. Since Jones made his living in the touchdown department, this is worrisome. History is not on his side when it comes to the chances of repeating as a 10+ touchdown scorer. Thankfully, there are other ways to succeed in fantasy, so this isn’t a dealbreaker. Not every top-ten asset has to dominate the touchdown column.
As a matter of fact, three of the top ten fantasy backs finished with single-digit touchdown totals in 2019, but only Nick Chubb finished inside the top eight. Jones’ chance to outperform his ADP strictly through his work at the goal line is pretty unlikely, so volume and efficiency elsewhere are going to be crucial. Speaking of volume….
Concern #2: Lack of Volume
A lot of people have pointed to the fact that Jones was never fully unleashed from a workload standpoint, and that’s true. It didn’t matter too much last since he found the end zone so many times, but it’s something to be concerned about going forward. Top ten running backs averaged 246 carries and just over 79 targets in 2019, and Jones finished below average in both categories. Two other backs did the same thing, but Saquon Barkley isn’t a human, and Dalvin Cook plays in a unique offense. Jones isn’t in a spot similar to either of these guys, so his lack of volume alongside the incoming touchdown regression doesn’t bode well for a top ten finish.
His work in the passing game should stick around in 2020, but there’s cause for concern there too. Jones saw 68 targets in total, but 27 of them were in the four-game stint that Davante Adams was sidelined. In the 12 other games, he averaged just 3.41 targets a game, good enough for 20th amongst running backs. Thankfully he was able to stay on the field for a full season last year too, which means that all of these things were accomplished in a best-case scenario. There’s an overwhelming amount of evidence that points to Jones dropping out of the top ten this year, and I haven’t even mentioned A.J. Dillon.
Concern #3: A.J. Dillon
The Packers draft was an absolute disaster and incredibly confusing, but that doesn’t mean their second-round pick can’t succeed. A.J. Dillon is a monster of a man from Boston College, standing at 6 feet and 247 pounds. He’s not particularly shifty or speedy and his pass blocking ability is respectable, but not elite. His entire profile fits the mold of a downhill back who would dominate at the goal line, meaning he’s a much bigger threat to Jamaal Williams‘ workload than Jones, but his skill set could evaporate some of Jones’ goal-line touches. Last season he ranked in the top fifteen in red-zone carries, but Dillon could have a big impact on his likelihood to repeat that feat. Keep in mind that Jones’ head coach is also the guy that committed a heinous football crime when he handed over 120 carries to Dion Lewis when Derrick Henry was in his locker-room. When you draft a back in round two, you expect to use him.
The real question here is: should you spend a second-round pick on Aaron Jones?
In my humble opinion, no.
The Bottom Line
If we’re using a top ten finish as the bar, there’s enough here for me to avoid Jones at his current ADP. This doesn’t mean Jones’ will be a bust by any sense, but his ceiling appears to be settled in right where he’s being drafted. I prefer to take on players that can outplay their ADP in an ideal scenario, but I’m confident saying we saw the most ideal scenario we will ever see last year for Aaron Jones. His path to a top ten finish is much clearer than a lot of players, but that’s already baked into his draft price. If he falls into my lap after the first 10-12 backs are taken, I would probably pull the trigger. I like Jones a lot as a dynasty buy low since AJ Dillon is a much different player, there’s still time for a deal to get done, and he’s a really strong talent who has proven he can succeed. With all that being said, I’m avoiding him at ADP in redraft.