Now that free agency, the NFL Draft, and the schedule release have all passed, we have our initial layout in place in team depth charts and strength of schedule. With that, we want to take a look at some players across the fantasy landscape that are either polarizing, over or undervalued, or just interesting topics of discussion and walk through some pros and cons of where those players are regarded in fantasy circles.
So far we have explored players such as Kenyan Drake, Austin Ekeler, Marquise Brown, Tyler Higbee, Mecole Hardman, Nick Chubb, the trio of DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and Mike Gesicki , D.J. Chark, and Odell Beckham. For this installment, we are digging into the strong season from Aaron Jones and where his current market is.
Week 1 Age: 25.7
Contract: Signed through 2020
Using the Dynasty ADP app available at RotoViz, we can see what the breakout season that Jones had a year ago has done for how he viewed across the fantasy landscape. Jones has done nothing but climb the ladder yearly, raising his stock each season he has been in the league.
Jones has averaged over 5.2, 5.9, and 5.5 yards per touch over each of his first three NFL seasons while his touch counts have risen each year, going from 90 to 150 to 285. An early career knock on Jones was that he was a liability in the passing game and that his pass protection hang-ups would limit his role. But all he has done is improve in that area and received more opportunity as a receiver in each season, with 18, 35, and 68 targets through three seasons while his yards per catch have warranted the increase, going for 2.4 yards to 7.9 and 9.7. Jones was not just getting checkdowns and dump-offs, either. Jones was third among all running backs in air yards last season despite ranking 11th in overall targets.
To tack on, Jones found the end zone 19 times last season. By the time the dust settled on the 2019 season, only Christian McCaffrey scored more PPR fantasy points than Aaron Jones did a year ago while Jones ranked third in points per game (19.7).
There is a lot to love about Jones, but he still has a few things orbiting his situation and usage that have dynasty owners holding their breath a bit. While his usage has gone up yearly, Jones still does not touch the ball like the top-shelf backs in the league. Jones was third in fantasy points per game, but averaged 17.8 touches per game, which was 14th at the position. He handled 63.8% of the Green Bay backfield touches, which ranked 13th at his position.
We also mentioned the touchdowns a year ago. After scoring 13 times over his first two seasons, Jones scored 19 touchdowns a year ago, matching McCaffrey for the league lead. He then scored four more touchdowns in the two playoff games for the Packers a year ago. Jones was a touchdown machine in 2019, scoring at least one time in 12-of-18 games played with multiple trips to the paint in eight of those games.
Jones was Superman to Leonard Fournette’s Bizarro in the red zone in 2019, out-kicking his expected red zone fantasy point total by a league-leading 37.4 points. Including the postseason, Jones had a league-high 16 rushing attempts from the 1 or 2-yard line while matching Ezekiel Elliott’s eight rushing scores on those carries. Jones was a solid 50% in converting those opportunities for scores, but that was actually a little under league rate for 2019 (55.1%).
Hanging on to those short scoring opportunities is going to prove crucial for Jones moving forward. Last season, Jamaal Williams only had two such carries from that area of the field. Green Bay just selected a 6’0”, 247-pound locomotive in A.J. Dillon in the second round (No. 62 overall) of this year’s draft. Dillon’s stature alone could incentivize Matt LaFleur and the staff to use him in that area of the field, at least at a higher rate than they did with Williams.
To go a step further on the potential scoring regression in store, 36.2% of the fantasy points Jones scored in 2019 came from touchdowns alone. For context, the average touchdown scoring percentage for top-12 scoring running backs since 2000 is at 24.3%. In 2019, his top peers in fantasy scoring in Christian McCaffrey (24.2%), Ezekiel Elliott (26.9%), and Dalvin Cook (26.7%) were well below that scoring dependency. Jones scored on 6.7% of his touches, becoming just the 20th back since 2000 to score on 6.0% of his touches that also had at least 200 touches on the season. That puts him in some pretty elite company.
Running Backs With 200+ Touches to Score on 6.0% of their Touches Since 2000
|Player||Year||TD/Tch%||TD||Touch||PPR/Gm||N+ TD||N+ Touch||N+ PPG|
This is some great company to keep, which gives you an idea of the actual ceiling for Jones if he can touch the ball like the top-rung backs in the league do. Unfortunately, it also highlights some immediate scoring regression.
Just two backs here, Priest Holmes in 2003 and Alvin Kamara in 2018, scored more touchdowns than the year prior. Kamara in 2018 was the only back here to increase his PPR scoring output per game. Of the 11 backs that match or rank higher than Jones here in scoring rate for a season, all 11 scored fewer touchdowns with an average decrease of 10.7 touchdowns the following season. All but four of the backs here also lost touches the following season.
That is a lot of words to highlight how Jones is unlikely to score 19 touchdowns again in 2020 (something you already knew), but at least provides the correct context to how it will happen and where a potential loss may fall. If Jones can hang onto a solid grasp on the goal line work and still land in the 8-10 touchdown range overall, he can still flirt with lower-end RB1 touchdown totals.
Unfortunately, we are not quite done yet with potential regression for Jones. While we highlighted Jones’s ability to improve and warrant more receiving work yearly in the NFL, his major spike in that area coincided with the midseason loss of Davante Adams.
|Jones 2019 Receiving||Games||Tgt||Tm Tgt%||Rec||ReYd||ReTD||RePts/Gm|
Jones was actually the WR1 for the Packers with Adams sidelined. He had six more targets, 10 more receptions, and 77 more receiving yards than the next closest Packer in each category with Adams sidelined while tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions. His 17.0 PPR receiving points per game would have led all backs over the course of the season (for context, Christian McCaffrey averaged 15.0 per game), but the 4.4 receiving points per game he averaged with Adams on the field would have ranked 30th at the position.
While we spent a lot of time in this space highlighting how Jones will be pressed to repeat his 2019 season, he still is a consistently proven hyper-efficient back that has improved every year in the league. While a loss of touchdowns and receptions moves him from the apex of the RB1 grouping of the position, he still could flirt with RB1 scoring potential.
For his dynasty stock, the roadblocks are apparent. The first being that he is entering 2020 in the final season of his rookie contract. The good news is that the team and Jones have had ongoing conversations on an extension. Not only could the selection of A.J. Dillon been insurance on those negotiations, the Packers also have Jamaal Williams on an expiring contract this season since he was selected ahead of Jones in that 2017 draft.
The odds that the Packers were going to retain both was always unlikely and Jones would be more of priority should they come to an agreement. Dillon’s actual NFL viability still stands to be questioned, but he does pose to be a potential touchdown threat if the future is a Jones-Dillon combo, but the pass-catching upside for Dillon is nearly non-existent.
But even with a contract extension and future contract insurance for dynasty gamers, the potential changeover to Jordan Love as the Green Bay quarterback, which could happen as early as 2021, also offer some future uncertainty on this offense as a whole and offer just a touch more added risk in if this is the opportune moment to move Jones at his highest point in the market.
As it stands now, I have Jones as the RB18 in Dynasty ranks, but still view him as a lower-end RB1 for the 2020 season. There’s absolutely room for him to make that ranking look foolish and turn in another RB1 scoring campaign and offer value to anyone buying right now.
But with the loss of scoring and the unknown certainty of his contract situation, approaching that vaunted time “second-contract running back” that has cropped up lately in dynasty circles, and the potential transition away from Aaron Rodgers as the franchise quarterback, I am proceeding with some caution longer term.
As usual in closing here, in dynasty, every player has potential to be both a buy and sell at the same time. You just have to find the proper context in your league on which he is valued per owner. Startup ADP and cost is not going to be an exact market for you with team context a driving force in established leagues, but here are the buy and sell point suggestions using that as guideline pending which side you fall on.
2020 Rookie Pick Value: Mid First (1.05-1.07)
RB Value Targets: Austin Ekeler, Leonard Fournette, Kenyan Drake
WR Value Targets: Odell Beckham, Allen Robinson, Calvin Ridley, Kenny Golladay, Amari Cooper
TE Value Targets: Travis Kelce
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