The NFL regular season may be over, but with four more weeks of football, fantasy doesn’t have to stop just yet. Like myself, I’m sure many of you are in fantasy playoff leagues. For playoff formats where you have to select your entire roster prior to Saturday’s kickoff, let’s analyze the fantasy football value of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon for the NFL playoffs.
Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon both have fantasy value
We’ll start with the obvious — both Jones and Dillon are fantasy-relevant. Depending on your league rules and format, you may be considering one or both of them on your roster.
Jones averaged 15.4 PPR fantasy points per game this season, finishing as the RB14 (minimum eight games played). Dillon averaged 11.2 PPR ppg, finishing as the RB30. Although Dillon appeared to have quite the pedestrian season, it was a tale of two halves, as he came on much stronger over the second half of the year.
How should fantasy managers handle Jones and Dillon?
When choosing a roster of players for the entirety of the playoffs, it’s important to select players on teams likely to win. As the top seed in the NFC, the Packers have to be considered the favorite to make the Super Bowl from the conference.
The caveat, of course, is that if you go with Jones or Dillon, you can’t use them until the Divisional Round. And despite playing every game at home, there’s no guarantee of getting more than one game out of them. If you go with a Packers running back, you need to acknowledge the risk of not using them in the first round and then only getting one game out of them after that.
Fantasy managers need to heavily weigh their confidence in the Packers’ Super Bowl potential
When selecting fantasy players on one of the teams with a bye, you need to believe in that team’s ability to reach the Super Bowl. The Packers are the favorite to reach the Super Bowl from the NFC, but as history has shown us, being the favorite doesn’t mean they will.
The Packers will probably host either the Cowboys or Cardinals in the Divisional Round. They’ve already beaten the Cardinals once, but they haven’t faced the Cowboys. The Packers would be favored in both of those games. If you believe in Green Bay making the Super Bowl, you want one or both of their running backs on your playoff roster.
Should fantasy managers go with Jones, Dillon, or perhaps both?
The key to success in full-length playoff fantasy formats is having as many players as possible in the Super Bowl. If you like the Packers to make the Super Bowl, you should put both Jones and Dillon on your roster.
Although Jones and Dillon cap each other’s upside, they both have fantasy value. Since the Packers’ Week 13 bye, Jones has finished as the PPR RB8, RB13, RB19, and RB21. During that same span, Dillon has been the RB35, RB24, RB31, and RB7. Regular-season RB3 performances become even more valuable in the NFL playoffs as the player pool is significantly reduced.
What if fantasy managers only want one of Jones or Dillon?
This is where things get trickier. Week 8 was really the start of the Packers pushing Dillon ahead of Jones as their lead runner. Since Week 8, Dillon has averaged 13.4 carries per game. Over that same span, Jones has averaged just 10.2 carries per game. Dillon also leads Jones in red-zone rushing attempts (39 to 34), which is telling, as Jones was the primary red-zone back over the first half of the season.
Nonetheless, Jones still leads Dillon in passing-game usage. While Dillon is a competent pass catcher (he has four games with at least 4 receptions), Jones still runs more routes. He’s run more routes than Dillon in every game this season.
There’s also the possibility Dillon’s increased usage stems from Jones’ Week 10 MCL sprain that cost him Week 11. Although Jones only missed one game, his average snap share prior to Week 10 was 65%. Since Week 12, Jones has averaged a snap share of 51%. While the change in playing time can certainly be attributed to Jones’ injury, I think Dillon has just played well and earned it.
Both running backs are talented. If I couldn’t afford both on my roster but wanted a piece of this backfield, I would go with Dillon over Jones. The Packers will be favored in both of their NFC games. Dillon has the higher ceiling due to the touchdown upside.