Despite finishing 2019 as the third-ranked running back in fantasy football, there are still questions surrounding what Aaron Jones can provide for fantasy owners in 2020. Just as fantasy general managers were breathing a sigh of relief after the Green Bay Packers stayed out of the free-agent market for running backs, the Packers went and added AJ Dillon out of Boston College in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
That decision sent the fantasy football world into a spiral of uncertainty surrounding the potential that Jones can provide for fantasy teams in 2020. Let’s take a look at how Jones has performed for fantasy owners through his first three seasons and what that might mean for 2020 and beyond.
How did Jones’ numbers stack up in 2019?
2019 saw Jones register the best year of his career in many numbers. In the run game, he logged career-highs in carries (236), rushing yards (1084), touchdowns (16), and first downs (55). As you might expect with a jump of 103 carries from 2018 to 2019, we did see a drop off in efficiency on a per-carry basis from Jones. In both 2017 and 2018, Jones averaged 5.5 yards per carry, dropping to 4.6 in 2019.
However, where Jones really bolstered his numbers was in the receiving game. Entering 2019, Jones had a combined 53 targets, 35 receptions, 228 yards, and one receiving touchdown. In 2019, he topped all those numbers with 68 targets for 49 receptions, totaling 474 receiving yards and three touchdowns. On a per-target basis, Jones averaged 7.0 yards and 9.7 yards per reception.
When you combine all of those numbers into his total yards from scrimmage, his success really comes into focus. On 285 touches, he gained 1558 yards at 5.5 yards per touch with 19 touchdowns scored in total. Those numbers placed him first in touchdowns as well as in the top 10 in the league in touches and yards from scrimmage.
What do the metrics tell us about Aaron Jones in his career?
Relative Athletic Score
Coming into the NFL from UTEP, Jones was not exactly a household name, despite 2,006 yards from scrimmage at 7.8 yards per touch and 20 touchdowns in his senior year. He burst onto the scene at the NFL Combine where he registered “Elite” speed and explosion numbers, and “Great” agility numbers, which were so impressive that he came into the NFL with a Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.21 despite a “Poor” grade when it came to size. A RAS of that magnitude with those traits should have given us an indication that Jones had the potential to be a special talent if given the opportunity for the Packers.
Offensive Share Metric
Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric indicates that there is actually potential for Jones to perform better in the run game going forward. Despite having superb athleticism as a base, Jones has failed to rank inside the top 20 at the running back position for OSM in either of the two seasons he has qualified to be graded.
OSM removes the surrounding factors in a player’s performance and focuses solely on how the player performed within elements under his control. Ranking outside of the top 20 in both 2018 and 2019, with scores of 14.68 and 14.98 respectively, Jones falls dead in the middle of the “average” tier.
However, Jones’ output on the field has been impressive and that points to three potential outcomes. If Jones can improve his performance and the offense continues to support him as it has, with offensive lines ranking in the top 10, then we could see Jones’ numbers go even higher in 2020.
But if Jones continues to perform as an average back, and the support around him decreases, then we could see Jones struggle next year. The third option is that we simply see a repeat of 2019, which I am sure would be just fine for fantasy teams containing Jones this year.
How has Jones performed compared to his expected fantasy points?
Jones has been an incredibly consistent performed when it comes to Fantasy Point Differential (FPD) in his three-year career. In those three years, Jones has registered an FPD over 20 in all three, with 2018 and 2019 seeing that number reach 29%. To put that into context, among 659 qualified FPD scores (>75 touches), Jones has two scores in the top 25 and three in the top 50.
Driving those scores has been Jones’ impressive efficiency when turning opportunities into fantasy points. In terms of rushing fantasy points per carry, he has scored above 0.85 in all three years of his career. Those numbers mean that all three of Jones’ seasons rank in the top 25 of rushing fantasy points per carry in the last decade.
Where Jones has increased his fantasy output has been in the receiving game. As a rookie, Jones registered just 1.24 receiving PPR fantasy points per reception. That number increased to 2.02 in 2018 and 2.33 in 2019. Neither of those numbers is particularly remarkable, but both rank in the top half at the position. When that is combined with his strong rushing consistency, it gives Jones a superb floor and ceiling for fantasy football GMs.
Was Jones a consistent fantasy producer in 2019?
2019 had some extreme highs for Jones in terms of fantasy returns. Jones scored three or more touchdowns in a game twice and two touchdowns in a further four. Just in touchdowns alone that is 90 fantasy points in just six games. Additionally, in six other games, Jones did not score a single touchdown, suggesting he was somewhat an all or nothing contributor for fantasy in 2019.
Last season, Jones ranked as an RB1 in 53% of games, which ranks for the third-highest amount. If we widen that out to the top 24 at the position, Jones finished in that group 67% of the time, which ranks 11th. That supports the narrative that he was a somewhat boom-or-bust option, finishing as an RB2 just 14% of the time. If we look at the extreme low points for Jones, we can see that he finished as an RB4 or worse in 27% of game weeks. Among the top 24 running backs, this was the second-highest behind Miles Sanders.
However, Jones’ impressive output overall saw him rank well in PFN’s Consistency Score. With a score of 6.4, Jones was the ninth highest-ranked running back. Combine that score with his 53% return as an RB1 and Jones proved to be good value on his 2019 ADP of the 15th running back off the board.
Aaron Jones’ 2020 Fantasy Outlook
However you slice it, 2019 was an impressive year for Aaron Jones, both in real terms and in fantasy output. Jones massively outperformed in ADP as the 15th RB off the board in finishing third at the position, registering a Fantasy Point Differential that ranked fourth at the position, and with consistency metrics inside the top 10 at the position.
The big question is whether Jones can repeat this success in 2020. Fleaflicker’s ADP currently places Jones as the 14th RB off the board in PPR and 11th in standard scoring. Given that Jones has proven he can finish as a top 10 RB when things break right, that feels like a value.
A question of lost touches?
The question of competition for touches looms large. In 2019, Jones saw his highest snap share of his career at 62%, up from 35% in 2018. The next highest running back was Jamaal Williams at 34.6% with no other RB registering a snap count percentage above five. At the position, Jones was responsible for 67% of the carries (57% of the team carries including other position), and 57% of the targets.
Entering 2020, there are question marks about what new arrival Dillon will provide in the passing game, making it unlikely he eats into Jones’ target share too much. Williams will still see a solid share of the targets, but Jones should still see above 50% of the targets at the position.
Carries could be a bigger question mark, especially red-zone carries, given the frame and power that Dillon possesses. Of Jones’ 16 rushing touchdowns last year, 14 of them came in the red zone last season, with eight of those coming on carries inside the five-yard line. If Jones loses some of these red-zone carries to Dillon it could have a monumental impact on his fantasy production.
Does Aaron Jones’ fantasy ADP represent a value in 2020?
Given that we expect Jones to see a similar snap count and share of both targets and carries, it is unrealistic to think that his production falls off a cliff in 2020. However, with question marks surrounding his role in the red zone with Dillon in competition for touches, a slight drop off from his impressive 2019 is to be expected.
Therefore, an ADP between 10th and 15th RB off the board appears to be the right value for Jones in redraft leagues. However, the concern surrounding his touches means that you should not be looking to reach for him as anything higher than a top 10 back. If anything, his ADP in standard leagues is a touch high, as Jones’ receptions and production in the passing game in 2019 were a big part of his value.
What fantasy value does Jones offer beyond 2020?
For dynasty leagues, one thing to consider is that this could be Jones’ last season in Green Bay. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, it would appear that the Packers have put a plan in place to move on from Jones in 2021. Therefore, if you are a contending team in 2020, Jones offers value as a layer to buy as a short-term investment.
However, if you are unlikely to challenge until 2021 or later, the uncertainty surrounding Jones’ situation this time next year makes him a viable candidate to look to move on from sooner rather than later if one of your league mates is high on his potential entering 2020.