Aaron Jones is quickly becoming a tricky asset for dynasty fantasy football managers to value. Over the past 3-4 years, he has been one of the best fantasy running backs in the NFL. Following a lackluster 2021 season and the rise of AJ Dillon, how should fantasy managers value Jones in 2022 and beyond?
Aaron Jones’ dynasty profile for 2022
Heading into the 2021 season, Jones is coming off back-to-back overall RB4 finishes. He averaged 19.9 PPR fantasy points per game in 2019 and 18.5 ppg in 2020. Both were excellent seasons and campaigns that fantasy managers would sign up for right now.
Prior to 2021, there was a prevailing belief among many that Jones would not re-sign with the Packers. The team had just drafted Dillon and didn’t need to retain Jones. Instead, the Packers gave Jones a four-year, $48 million extension. What does this mean for Jones’ future, and how should fantasy managers value Jones?
Fantasy projection for Jones
In preparing PFN’s initial dynasty fantasy rankings for 2022, BJ Rudell, Tommy Garrett, and I all did the exact same thing with the Packers’ duo: we each ranked Dillon exactly one spot ahead of Jones. Suffice it to say Jones is a tricky player to evaluate going forward.
Jones’ 2021 season cannot be classified as anything less than a disappointment for fantasy managers. Although he still managed 15.4 ppg and a borderline RB1 finish, it was a considerable drop-off from his expected level of production. With Dillon’s continued rise, it’s fair to wonder whether this backfield will flip in 2022.
Jones’ future remains uncertain
What makes Jones so difficult to assess is the significant amount of moving parts. We have Jones himself, who will turn 28 years old before the end of the 2022 season. The age apex for running backs is 25. It may not feel like it, but Jones is very much on the tail end of his career. He likely only has 2-3 years left of fantasy relevance.
There’s also the question of where Jones will play going forward. We know he will be with Green Bay in 2022. But in all likelihood, the Packers will move on from him (either via trade or release) in the 2023 offseason. Where Jones ends up and what role he has on a potentially new team will significantly impact his value.
Finally, we have the more immediate question of what the Packers will look like in 2022 and what role Jones will play. Dynasty managers not contending in 2022 would do well to steer clear of Jones. However, even those looking to win now may be wise to sell Jones.
None of us knows the future with any degree of certainty, but we can make reasonable inferences based on the data we have. We have seen the best of Jones already. In fact, his 2022 season will probably continue the downward trend.
Will Jones remain the lead back in Green Bay?
Despite Dillon’s increased role in 2021, Jones was clearly the lead back. Will it stay that way?
Jones will be the starter for the entire 2022 season, as long as he’s healthy. Of that, I am certain. The thing is, being the starter doesn’t actually matter. What matters is how the Packers divide up the touches.
This backfield is going to be a timeshare. I’m projecting Dillon to be the primary rusher and goal-line back while Jones shares in between-the-20s work and dominates passing-down work. While the receptions will help maintain Jones’ floor, the lack of goal-line carries will torpedo his ceiling.
In 2020, Jones led the Packers with 40 red-zone rush attempts. Jamaal Williams and Dillon combined for just 29. In 2021, Jones was the goal-line back for about half the season. Then, Dillon very clearly took hold of the role to the point where he ended up with more red-zone rushes (39) than Jones (34). Look for that split to be even more pronounced in 2022.
What can fantasy managers expect from Jones?
Jones and Dillon’s fantasy values should be relatively similar in 2022. Dillon will be more volatile because he will be more touchdown-dependent. Jones will be more consistent, but he’ll likely be outscored by Dillon more often than not.
Look for Jones to handle about 8-10 carries a game but average 4-5 targets. Dillon should see 14-16 carries a game with limited passing-game work. Both are likely middling RB2s with elite RB1 upside if the other misses a game.
Beginning in 2023, this should be Dillon’s backfield. That makes his fantasy value easier to project going forward.
As for Jones, he is unlikely to be fantasy-relevant beyond 2024. How valuable Jones ends up being in 2023 and 2024 depends on whether he ultimately leaves the Packers and what role he’s given on his new team.
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