Aaron Jones finally had the breakout season many of his fans had been waiting for since he entered the league. New Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LeFleur took a run-heavy approach that resulted in Jones racking up over 1,500 scrimmage yards. Josh Jacobs was a first-round draft pick by the Las Vegas Raiders. During his first season, he lived up to his hype, displaying his abilities as a dynamic playmaker for the team. Despite missing two games and being limited by injury most of the second half of the year, Jacobs topped 1,300 scrimmage yards.
While both have as high of ceilings as any runner in the league for fantasy football, Jacobs’ usage in his second season could get a huge bump with little competition for carries. Jones could trend the opposite way, as he finds himself in a crowded running back room.
Fantasy Football: Draft Josh Jacobs Over Aaron Jones
Similar Rushing Volume
In terms of rushing volume, both backs saw similar carry numbers. Jacobs rushed 242 times for 1,150 yards, and Jones was just a little behind with 236 carries for 1,084. However, Jacobs appeared in just 13 games, compared to Jones’ 16. And Jacobs also played hurt for much of the second half of the year. Still, Jacobs was able to average a healthy 88.5 rushing yards per game. Jones’ rushing average was much lower, only notching in about 67.8 yards-per-game on the ground.
Though Jones had three 100+ rushing yard games, He also had seven games with under 50 rushing yards, and nine games where he didn’t top 60. Jones split snaps with Jamaal Williams, sometimes not seeing enough rushing volume to really rack up carries. He had 11 games with under 15 carries.
Jacobs on the other hand only notched two games with under 60 yards and three games where he had less than 15 carries. The Raiders didn’t make any moves to bring in competition for Jacobs either. The team drafted Lynn Bowden Jr., a player who played both wide receiver and quarterback in college at Kentucky. Jon Gruden says he is going to play him at running back. Still, he isn’t a threat to steal any significant volume.
It is worth mentioning that Las Vegas re-signed pass-catching back Jalen Richard this offseason. And the stats that tipped the scales in Jones’ favor last season were his receiving yards. He caught 49 passes for 474 yards and three touchdowns. He had eight games last season with at least six targets. On the other hand, Jacobs only saw more than three targets in one game last year. On the season he had 20 catches for 166 yards.
Jacobs’ usage in the pass-game is head-scratching because one of his strengths scouts touted out of college was his prowess as a receiver. Now, it is tough to take the claims of coaches and players too seriously during “superlative season,” but in Jacobs’ case, it is encouraging to hear from a back who does have the ability.
Jacobs also claims to have been working on nuances of the passing game, saying “I worked on a lot of things that receivers do. Not just running back routes, like how to get off the line, how to stack on top once you get vertical.” Richard is a competent receiver, but not as much as a pure rusher. But it would make the team much less predictable if Jacobs could become a three-down back.
On Jones’ end, it is unlikely he increases his receptions and could lose even more work on the ground now that the team took the bruising back, A.J. Dillon, in the second round of the NFL this season. Dillon is huge, at 246 pounds, but is faster than his frame would seem. Jones could quickly become part of a three-headed backfield if the team keeps Williams involved.
Target Josh Jacobs Over Aaron Jones in the Second Round
Both backs have second-round grades on them. ESPN has Jones rated as the RB11 and Jacobs as the RB14. But, both are being taken sporadically in many mocks, with Jacobs often going late first round. Jones already catches passes, and those that believe Jacobs has a chance to increase his targets shouldn’t feel scared to go after them over other backs ranked above them.
Regardless, with Jones’ usage trending in the wrong direction, he is a higher risk for his draft price. Jacobs carries risk of his own. However, he is at least trending in the right direction coming into his second season and gets enough rushing volume and red-zone opportunities to be a great late-first or early-second round pick.
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