AJ Dillon is a very intriguing asset for dynasty fantasy football managers. Entering his third NFL season, he is poised to take another step forward. How should fantasy managers value Dillon in 2022 and beyond?
AJ Dillon’s dynasty profile for 2022
Entering the 2021 season, Dillon managers were hoping the Packers were ready to hand the keys to the backfield over to him. Instead, the Packers extended Aaron Jones to the tune of four years and $48 million.
To start the season, Jones was clearly the lead back with Dillon only playing 30-40% of the snaps. However, things started to shift around midseason. The Packers began utilizing Dillon as their primary rusher and goal-line back. What does this all mean for Dillon’s future, and how should fantasy managers value him going forward?
Fantasy projection for Dillon
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 Jones exactly one spot behind Dillon. Clearly, we were all thinking the same thing: We like Dillon more than Jones long-term, but it’s very close.
Dillon’s 2021 season has to be considered a massive success. Although he didn’t become the RB1 he would’ve been had Jones signed elsewhere, Dillon totaled 1,116 yards from scrimmage and proved to be a complete back.
In addition to leading the Packers in carries (187) and rushing yards (803), Dillon proved adept as a receiver as well. He caught 92% of his targets and had four games with 4+ receptions.
In 2022, fantasy managers must temper expectations with Dillon. Jones is still there, and he’s not going anywhere. This offense and, more specifically, this backfield, will look a lot like how it did in 2021. The good news is it will be more like the latter part of the season where Dillon was the clear lead rusher/goal-line back while Jones shared rushing duties but dominated passing-game work.
Dillon’s future is bright
Dynasty managers may need to weather 2022, but Dillon has all the makings of a future RB1.
Despite Jones’ four-year extension, he will likely be gone in 2023. I doubt the Packers will move on from Jones and not bring in someone to pair with Dillon, but Dillon is going to be the lead back. He’s already proven capable. Dillon is just 24 years old, and his arrow is firmly pointed upwards.
The Packers’ uncertain QB situation must be taken into account
At this point, it’s a foregone conclusion Aaron Rodgers is not leaving Green Bay. While that’s great for Dillon’s immediate value, Rodgers is not going to be around forever. Rodgers will turn 39 before the end of the 2022 season. While he’s certainly capable of playing into his early 40s, dynasty managers cannot assume Rodgers will be around for more than another year or two.
Every player’s team situation impacts his fantasy value. Dillon’s long-term dynasty value is undoubtedly impacted by the prospect of his offensive situation getting significantly worse, possibly as early as 2023.
Will Dillon become the lead back in Green Bay?
There’s no denying Dillon’s increased role in 2021. Nevertheless, Jones was clearly the lead back. Will it stay that way in 2022?
As long as Jones is healthy, he’s going to start for the Packers. If he plays 17 games in 2022, Jones will start all of them. However, that doesn’t mean he will be the back with the most fantasy value.
Jones and Dillon are going to share snaps and touches. Look for Dillon to lead the Packers in carries once again and act as their primary rusher. He should also dominate goal-line work.
Last season, Jones was the clear goal-line back for the first half of the season. Yet, Dillon still finished with more red-zone rushes (39) than Jones (34). In 2022, I don’t expect it to be close.
What can fantasy managers expect from Dillon?
Jones and Dillon’s fantasy values should be relatively similar in 2022. Jones is an excellent receiver and should be the Packers’ primary passing-down back. Expect Dillon to have more splash games due to his touchdown upside, but for Jones to have a higher floor due to his receiving work. With that said, if I had to bet on which Packers running back would outscore the other on more weeks, I’d go with Dillon.
I’m expecting Jones to see somewhere around 8-10 carries a game with 4-5 targets. Dillon should be the clear lead rusher in the area of 14-16 carries a game. I’m not expecting more than a couple of targets, at best, though. Both are looking like middling RB2s with elite RB1 upside if the other misses a game.
The good news is this should be Dillon’s backfield beginning in 2023. He should have multiple years as the unquestioned lead back.
While his offensive situation is difficult to project, volume is king in fantasy football. Now is the time for fantasy managers to acquire Dillon. You may need to overpay relative to 2022, but you will reap the rewards and then some beginning in 2023.