It’s official. We are smack in the middle of the NFL off-season. The draft is over, training camp is still a couple of months away and there really isn’t that much going on in the league right now. Do you know what that means? Time to start getting ready for fantasy football, I don’t care if it’s only May, you can never be too prepared. A very popular pick for breakout player of the year is Packers running back, Aaron Jones. He had a great 2018 season but wasn’t nearly used to his full capabilities. With new head coach Matt Lafleur‘s run-heavy system, Jones could be in store for a career year.
Aaron Jones 2019 Fantasy Football Outlook
Entering the 2018 season, Jones was the presumed starter until an off-season suspension forced him to miss the first two games of the season. Upon his return, Jones immediately showed that he deserved to be the starter but was inexplicably underutilized. Finally, in Week Eight against the Rams, Jones got his chance to be the lead back and he never looked back.
Jones finished the season with 728 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns while adding 25 catches for 206 yards and a touchdown. All of this was done in only 12 games, while never exceeding 17 carries in a single game. Saying he was “underutilized” may be the understatement of the century.
Another area in which Jones excels in is his yards per carry. Last year he led the league with 5.5 yards per rush, while also netting just under eight yards per catch. Receiving was an area in which he showed real promise but wasn’t targeted all that much in 2018. I expect his pass catching volume to go up considerably this year with the Packers opting not to draft a receiving back.
Anyone who watched Jones play last year knows just how talented he is. His numbers may not scream elite but that has a lot more to do with volume than talent. One thing I’m not worried about this year is his volume. I expect Lafleur to lean on him heavily both on the ground and through the air.
For the better part of the last two decades, the Packers have been looked at as a pass-first team. I think that finally changes in 2019. Between hiring Lafleur and having the uber-talented Jones in the backfield there is no reason why they shouldn’t be looking to run the ball more.
As I mentioned earlier, I think it’s this new Lafleur led offense that’s going to take his game to the next level. If you take a quick look back at Lafleur’s previous three jobs and the running backs on those teams, you’ll see a common thread. Dominance. In 2016, Devonta Freeman was unstoppable for the Falcons finishing with over 1,600 total yards and 13 total touchdowns. The following year, Todd Gurley set the NFL on fire with over 2,000 total yards and 19 touchdowns. That’s just crazy! Finally, last season saw the combo of Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry combine for over 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns. As you can see, Lafleur loves using his running backs early and often.
As we all know, you can’t talk about running the ball without talking about the big men up front. The Packers conveniently employ one of the top O-lines in the league and it only got better this off-season with the additions of veteran Billy Turner and rookie Elgton Jenkins. With such a strong and stable line in front of him, Jones should be seeing wide open lanes all year long. Another underrated aspect of playing on the O-line is getting out in front of screen passes and I think this line should excel at that. It’s a group of mostly younger, faster, and athletic guys who can swing out in the flat and give Jones a ton of run after catch opportunities.
Average Draft Position
As of this posting, FantasyPros currently has Jones coming off the board at 29. If you see Jones at the end of the third round you absolutely must jump at that value.
In my opinion, Jones has a legitimate shot at finishing as a top 10 running back this year. Unlike last year, he will be the lead back from day one and everything else is set up for him to succeed. He has a run-minded head coach, a great offensive line and a future Hall of Fame quarterback that will attract most of the defense’s attention on a weekly basis. In standard leagues, I would target Jones in the 15-20 range while in PPR I’d look for him at the top of the third round.