Leading up to the 2020 season, it feels like a good idea to prepare as much as possible on the value players have within the fantasy landscape. We’ll take a look at several Green Bay Packers players to determine if their value may be too high this season or a potential steal as you start your fantasy drafts.
Today, I wanted to take a look at last year’s fantasy RB2 in PPR leagues and RB3 in standard leagues: Aaron Jones.
Last year, as head coach Matt LaFleur put a heavier emphasis on gaining chunks of yards on the ground, Aaron Jones burst out of the “please play him more” zone that he was stuck in during the prior two years. Jones put together 313 PPR points last season while rushing for over 1,000 yards and 16 TDs and adding 474 yards and three more TDs through the air.
The surface-level fantasy bro will tell you that Jones should regress this year because 19 TDs is difficult to duplicate, but you should be trying to figure out how much of a regression will be in store. Currently, Jones is being drafted at the RB10, per Fantasy Pros, or 15th overall. A second-round value feels like a steal regardless of this perceived regression status.
While Jones can take a step back on rushing TDs this year, there’s a good chance he adds more yardage to his ground stats as Green Bay made a larger emphasis this offseason on shifting towards more big, multiple personnel groupings. Last year, Jones was fourth in Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR)— which measures total value —and seventh in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), which measures efficiency. Green Bay was the fourth overall rushing offense by DVOA last season. Despite this efficiency, Jones was only 12th in total rushing yards— suggesting room to gain more yards there as he was only 15th in the league in attempts.
A big part of the rushing success was the offensive line for the Packers in 2019 being movers in the ground game. They finished sixth in adjusted line yards, making the offensive line quite responsible for yards gained by the running backs. A big blow to that line was losing Bryan Bulaga in free agency. Rick Wagner is a decent stop-gap option, but he’ll need to earn every penny of his prove-it contract this season. Billy Turner wasn’t great in his first Packers season, but he was quite adept at helping the right tackles do their job. Lane Taylor should be able to add some offensive line depth and Elgton Jenkins already proved he’s one of the better guards in the league after one rookie season.
Speaking of additions, will rookie A.J. Dillon impact Jones’ value? He might, but not any more than Jamaal Williams did, which was almost not at all. Dillon is a big back, sure, but the idea that he’ll steal goal-line TDs away is projecting. The Packers were second last year in Red Zone Scoring Percentage (67.88 percent) and Jones scored 14 of his total rushing TDs in the red zone (plus one receiving red zone TD), while turning 19 of his carries within the opponents 10-yard line into 11 TDs. Williams, despite being the “bigger” back, only registered 12 carries in the red zone compared to Jones’ 33 RZ carries. The Packers scored 18 rushing TDs total last season and of the two not scored by Jones, Aaron Rodgers had one rushing TD, while Williams had the other.
Really, the bigger threat to Jones’ RZ effectiveness is Davante Adams. In the red zone, Adams was targeted 18 times and turned that into 12 catches for three touchdowns. Adams ability to get off the line of scrimmage is second to none and he’s the number one ranked WR in PFF grade in the red zone. While you would ideally like all your fantasy RBs to score everything in the red zone, Jones’ is a big play back by nature. On runs of 10+ yards, Jones had 25 of such attempts, going for 437 yards (17.5 YPC!) and five touchdowns on those sprints. Jones had roughly 111 more effective yards than standard yards last year, per Football Outsiders. Meaning he played better than standard stats would indicate.
According to Sharp Football Stats, the Packers have the 15th easiest schedule going into 2020. This analysis also has the Packers projected to face the fourth most difficult schedule on Rush Efficiency Defense compared to 17th easiest last year. While that isn’t great, their RZ Blend Defense and RB Pass Efficiency Defense strength of schedule is projected to both be the 15th easiest. Jones should continue his ascent in being a valuable pass catching back that helped him be the second best running back in PPR leagues last year as he attracted 68 passing targets.
While a regression is certainly possible, it’s mostly because Jones doesn’t have a lot of space to move up. However, RB10 in fantasy drafts is a little rich. I would project Jones to be around the RB5-RB7 range based on usage, skill, how the offense wants to function, and that he’s a running back who wants to get paid next offseason. He may have put up a lot of touchdowns, but he also left some points on the board in other areas that he can grab up. If he truly does last until the 15th pick in your fantasy drafts, that’ll be a good day at the office for you.