Same as it ever was, same as it never was.
Two-time defending MVP Aaron Rodgers returns to lead a Packers offense suddenly bereft of pass catchers. Davante Adams, acclaimed by many to be the best receiver in the league, has gone to Las Vegas to play with his college teammate Derek Carr. And Marquez Valdes-Scantling signed in Kansas City to help replace Tyreek Hill.
What remains for Rodgers to throw to is a rag-tag collection of prospects, overachievers, and over-the-hillers. An inner-circle Hall of Fame quarterback can overcome that, but only if he gets support from an elite offensive line and running backs picking up the slack. It’s time for Aaron Jones to shine!
Note: Our Wednesday, July 27th, No Punt Intended episode will look at Aaron Jones in fantasy football! We welcome our good friend with lousy internet, Jake Trowbridge from MB Fantasy Life! The show will cover the 49ers, Packers, and Chiefs.
Aaron Jones in Fantasy Football
2021 – What Happened?
Before the 2021 season, AJ Dillon said, “I think we can be the best running back tandem in the NFL.” (NFL.com) He couched his assessment a bit, but he was absolutely correct. Pro Football Focus graded Dillon and Aaron Jones as the numbers 3 and 5 tailbacks in the league. Football Outsiders ranked them 8th and 13th in DYAR. Jones missed two games and fell short of a third straight 1000-yard season but maintained his elite efficiency, averaging 4.7 yards per carry and 7.5 yards per reception with an 80% catch rate.
Dillon ate into Jones’ carry total in a way that Jamaal Williams never did, taking 187 handoffs for himself, and obviously did well with them, given his analytic grades. The biggest surprise from the backfield may have been Dillon’s efficiency in the passing game, catching 34 of 37 targets, more receptions than he had in his career at Boston College. All this happened with the Packers missing the core of their offensive line, as David Bahktiari only played a few snaps in the meaningless finale, and Elgton Jenkins tore his ACL in Week 11.
2022 – What’s Next?
Much has been made of Aaron Jones’ receiving statistics when Davante Adams misses time, and they are impressive. Since 2019, he’s caught 36 of 47 targets for 388 yards and four touchdowns in seven games. (Courtesy of https://www.pro-football-reference.com/) That’s seven targets, five catches for 55 yards per game, with a touchdown scored in every other. Impressive indeed. That’s over 13 PPR fantasy points per game on receiving volume alone. Even with a full carry split with Dillon, the receiving numbers would carry him to being a top-12 running back.
The question then becomes, is this sustainable over a larger sample size?
Let’s answer that question with another question. What’s the competition for targets?
Allen Lazard is a glorified tight end. Robert Tonyan is an actual tight end but currently recovering from a torn ACL in Week 7. Randall Cobb and Amari Rodgers are slot receivers at opposite ends of the age spectrum, and neither impressed last year. Sammy Watkins played a full season his rookie year and never since. Christian Watson is crazy athletic and the heir apparent to MVS’s low-volume lid lifter role, but he’s a rookie. Besides the quarterback, Aaron Jones is the best skill-position player on this team, and it’s not particularly close.
For three seasons, Matt LeFleur has been calling an Aaron Rodgers offense; now, we’ll see Aaron Rodgers execute a Matt LaFleur offense. Aaron Jones will be the focal point of that offense, on the ground and through the air. I hear being Aaron Rodgers’ preferred target is good for your fantasy prospects.
A Look Inside the Green Bay Packers
Editor’s Note: We asked our writers to focus on one player, but we don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Joel focused on Aaron Jones in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the rest of the Packers, prepared by either Josh Hudson or Ryan Weisse.
Aaron Rodgers – Brett Favre did two things Rodgers hasn’t been able to do: Get to a 2nd Super Bowl and win three straight MVP awards. If Rodgers doesn’t match him this year, he likely never will. -Joel Wirth For fantasy, Rodgers will miss Davante Adams. He was the overall QB5 last year and can be had after the 9th Round this year. If you trust that he can make any WR good, he’s a steal. If you’re not sure where Adams’ 11 TDs will come from, he’s a hard avoid. – Ryan Weisse
AJ Dillon – He’s not a handcuff; he’s a 1B. With Jones’ expected passing volume, Dillon could be the Packers leading rusher. -Joel Wirth Yep! – Ryan Weisse
Allen Lazard– He’s maxed out as a 3rd banana. He was a restricted free agent, and the Packers made no real effort to extend him beyond 2022. -Joel Wirth Lazard’s eight TDs on just 60 targets last season inspires some confidence heading into 2022. He won’t approach the 160 targets that Adams leaves behind. But if he can hit 100 and keep those TDs, he will be a solid WR3 for fantasy with big-week upside. – Ryan Weisse
Randall Cobb – The de facto GM’s best friend. He’d probably be out of the league without divine (Rodgers) intervention. -Joel Wirth Just playing off of Joel’s best friend narrative, we have seen that lead teams, and the league, in targets. I have no idea what the line is for Cobb to lead this team in WR yards or receptions, but it’s not the worst way to lose your money. – Ryan Weisse
Sammy Watkins – IF he can stay healthy (ultra capitalized if), this is the best situation he’s been in to be a contributor since he was a rookie. It seems impossible he was the highest drafted WR of the 2014 class. -Joel Wirth, I just went back and bolded Joel’s IF. Health will play the most significant factor in Watkins’ value. He will have some big weeks IF he can stay on the field. – Ryan Weisse
Christian Watson – He’ll be a Deebo Samuel/MVS hybrid and is the best positioned to be Rodgers’ primary end zone target. There’s a path to immediate fantasy relevance. -Joel Wirth The MVS comparison is appropriate, and he will likely win that role immediately. It could lead to some big games if he and Rodgers can quickly get on the same page. – Ryan Weisse
Romeo Doubs – Fantasy deep sleeper. He’s the most capable of replicating Adams’ role in the offense. -Joel Wirth Joel knows these rookies better than I do, but I am not banking on a 4th-Round guy in a crowded WR room during year 1. – Ryan Weisse
Amari Rodgers – Looked slow and bulky in his rookie year. He needs to make a massive leap not to be seen as another Brian Gutekunst 3rd round draft bust. -Joel Wirth The one positive is that they may use Rodgers in a similar role to how they used Davante Adams. Rodgers is NOT Davanate Adams, but if he wins the starting role, targets could naturally flow his way. – Ryan Weisse
Robert Tonyan – Never an elite athlete, he now has to recover from a torn ACL. Without touchdown equity, he has no fantasy value. -Joel Wirth Everything Joel said is true, but as one of the few proven targets remaining for Aaron Rodgers, if Tonyan can recover, he can be a more reliable streamer because of his TD upside – Ryan Weisse
We hope you enjoyed our look at Aaron Jones for fantasy football this season. You can find all of our A Look Inside articles here!
If you’re prepping for your dynasty drafts, you can also find our rookie consensus rankings here.