The gist of the sentiment was that fantasy players wanted Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon to both be in situations where they are workhorse running backs, getting 25 to 30 touches per game. After all, volume reigns supreme in fantasy. In a two-QB dynasty league, just having two guys who are starting can seem impossible at times. Targets and carries equal points, generally speaking. And when they must share, it’s seen as not hitting their peak potential.
However, for Aaron Jones, less is more. Jones has shared a backfield with Jamaal Williams – who signed with Detroit – for his entire career. Before head coach Matt LaFleur took over, Jones played two seasons, 12 games each year. During those two seasons, he ran for 5.53 and 5.47 yards per carry, and was RB24 in PPR leagues during his sophomore season. As an early Aaron Jones truther, I was wondering what in the heck was going on with his usage. Turns out, a lot of the issues with the offense pre-2019 had to do with Mike McCarthy’s scheme.
Once LaFleur came in and emphasized the run game through a heavy-personnel approach, Jones blossomed into the RB2 playing 16 games and, despite missing two games this past season, was still RB5.
Jones and Williams played all four of their seasons together, coming out of the same draft. The timeshare didn’t affect Jones then and won’t now, as Dillon was always meant to be more of a Williams replacement as a physical runner who can wear defenses down.
In his RB2 season of 2019, Jones only topped 84 percent of snaps in two games and never went over 25 carries in a single game. Heck, he only carried the ball over 20 times three times that season and his highest number of carries came in Week 17 – a week that often does not matter in fantasy leagues. Keeping Jones fresh and not allowing him to break down will only help his value.
Dillon, on the other hand, is still a bit of a wild card. He missed several games this season due to COVID-19 and we’re finding more recently that this illness has a bigger effect on some athletes than others. In his limited usage, though, he looked like a player who is absolutely going to exhaust defenses in December. In Week 16 when he saw the majority of RB snaps (58 percent), he rumbled for 124 yards on 21 carries and scored twice.
Jamaal Williams’ best season came in his rookie year as six total touchdowns helped him get up to RB31 status in PPR leagues, but before the LaFleur offense took hold, he never averaged more than four yards per carry. Williams was never the most skilled runner and Dillon is better than him in that area, but Williams’ efforts in the passing game will be tough for Dillon to duplicate. If he could duplicate that, Dillon can still be a top-25 RB in 2021 putting up the occasional RB1-type performance in a given week, even as a backup to Jones.
Another key aspect for Dillon will be whether or not he gets a full training camp in. Last year’s virtual schedule and limited work before the season wasn’t helpful for development. If Dillon hits the ground running for Year two, there’s no reason the Packers can’t have a monster backfield (both in real and in fantasy terms) like the Nick Chubb-Kareem Hunt tandem in Cleveland.