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Can the Packers’ running backs return to fantasy relevance?

Packers RBs haven’t been fantasy dynamos lately. Is there time coming once again?

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers take on the Carolina Panthers this Saturday — don’t forget that when setting your fantasy lineups — and a weak Panthers defense should mean good things for the Packers running game.

Or will it? The Panthers are 19th by Run Defense DVOA, which isn’t in the top half of the league but is still a marked improvement from earlier in the season. The Packers boast the #1 offense by DVOA this season and rank 8th in Rush DVOA. They’re also prolific in the red zone. So why question if the Packers rushers will have good performances on Saturday?

It starts with Aaron Jones, who has played great this season but hasn’t been the elite fantasy back he was last year or even earlier in the season. Since Week 9 — after Jones got back from his injury — He’s only been the RB14 by PPR points per game. He’s behind guys like Jonathan Taylor, David Montgomery, and (gulp) Wayne Gallman. The touches have been there, but the output hasn’t quite been up to par on a week-to-week basis. He only has three total touchdowns since the Packers’ bye in Week 5 and his passing targets seem to have settled to around the two-to-four per game area.

There’s been some offensive line shuffling, but that hasn’t stop the unit from playing like one of the best in the league. According to Football Outsiders, the Packers aren’t heavily dependent on either the running back or the offensive line to create rushing yards with an Open Field Yards rank of 8th and an Adjusted Line Yards rank of 6th. It could be a lack of Tyler Ervin’s availability that has hampered the pre-snap jet motion game or that Jamaal Williams has been perfectly capable of spelling Jones on drives.

The simplest answer is that Jones just isn’t consistently taking advantage of the limited opportunities that he’ll see. By design, LaFleur doesn’t want to turn any one running back into a bellcow. Even in Week 12 with Jones seeing 17 carries, Williams had 17 carries, too.

Jones is still the most likely option to explode this week, but he projects more as an RB2 at this point. He has only surpassed 20 fantasy points twice this season, but maybe that just means he’s due for more. As far as Williams goes, he’s only an option if you’re super desperate — Like you just need a body to fill a spot because of injury desperate.