It may not be Easter Day, but in this series, we are going on a football-themed Easter egg hunt for one veteran player at each position that should be on your dynasty roster this season and beyond. We will also throw in a few “Easter eggs” about each player to have fun and help you understand why I’m such a believer.
I’ve been invested in the players we will cover for multiple years in dynasty, so I’ve experienced the highs and lows. Still, I’m personally counting on these guys to lead my teams to fantasy glory in 2022 and believe each player can help you win as well.
Will Aaron Jones hold off the AJ Dillon renaissance and finish as a top-ten running back in 2022? Let’s hop to it.
Be sure to go back and read the first article in this series covering Lamar Jackson!
The Ripple Effects Of Davante’s Departure
In one of the wildest moves from a wild NFL offseason, the Green Bay Packers traded away star wide receiver Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders. At the time of the trade back in March, our own Andrew Harbaugh wrote about its impact on the Packers offense. Adams is a top three wide receiver and was the Packers best weapon. Losing Adams has fundamentally changed this Packers offense, and that’s where our guy Aaron Jones comes in.
As you can see by the above tweet, there’s been a stark difference in Jones’s fantasy and pass-catching production depending on Adams’s presence in the lineup. Green Bay attempted to supplement the departure of skill players like Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling by adding journeyman wide receiver Sammy Watkins in free agency and taking three wide receivers in the 2022 Draft. However, as Matthew Mitchell points out in his Draft Grades article, trust in his pass-catchers is essential for Rodgers, and “it will be interesting to see how Aaron Rodgers meshes with his new set of wide receivers.”
The shakeup on offense means Aaron Jones has the chance to shine even brighter. Jones boasts a balanced skill set and can impact all four downs as both a runner and pass-catcher. The latter may be his best path to increased fantasy production. Per Establish The Run, Adams had an unbelievable 30.8% target share in 2021, with MVS the next closest at 14.1%. Aaron Jones is playing with one of the best quarterbacks in the game, and that target share has to go somewhere. However, with the emergence of AJ Dillon last season, Jones arguably faces his biggest competition since taking the starting job.
The impact of AJ Dillon in 2021 was felt in Jones’ fantasy production. Aaron Jones finished as the RB11 in total PPR fantasy points in 2021. That was a notable dip for Jones, who finished as a top-five running back in both the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Back-to-back 1,000+ rushing yard seasons preceded his 799 rushing yards in 2021. Jones averaged only 15.3 PPR FPTS/G in 2021, his lowest since his sophomore season in the league.
Jones was still eighth in total touchdowns in 2021 (10), but the Packers ultimately relied almost equally on Dillon, especially in the rushing game. Dillon barely outpaced Jones in rushing attempts (187 to 171) and total yards (803 to 799). Dillon commanded his fair share of the passing game as well (37 targets compared to Jones’s 65). Coming off two stellar seasons, it was disappointing to see Jones’ role in the offense steadily reduced by Dillon.
The good news from 2021 is Aaron Jones was the more heavily used back in the passing game, even with the emergence of Dillon. Jones boasts 60+ targets in the last three seasons, an impressive stat for any running back. To be clear, this backfield split is all upside for the Packers. It’s probably a big reason Rodgers felt comfortable committing long-term and why the team seems confident in their offense even without Adams.
2022 Fantasy Outlook For Aaron Jones
Per PFF, the Packers have the fifth best offensive line heading into 2022. Both Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon should continue to thrive in this offense. There will be many variables heading into 2022, and it will be interesting to see the outcome. However, I’m bullish on Jones as a top-ten back in 2022 and wouldn’t be surprised if he even got close to reclaiming his top-five running back glory days. Though not likely, it’s not completely out of the question.
It’s clear from the above poll that I’m not alone in being high on Jones this season. Most voted that he could wind up in the top ten and likely between RB6-10. You can’t underestimate the AJ Dillon factor, but I think Jones has incredible upside in PPR. There’s no question Jones will pick up a lot of the target share vacated by Adams. Aaron Jones has posted a 72%+ catch percentage each of the last four seasons, so he will make the most of the opportunity.
Jones has played 14+ games in each of the last three seasons, so injury concern is minimal. In the rushing game, you can also expect a positive rushing touchdown regression in 2022. Coming off a declining number of rushing touchdowns the last three seasons (16, 9, 4), there’s nowhere to go but up. Aaron Jones should never have his talent doubted. The big question this year will be how much opportunity he gets. AJ Dillon isn’t going anywhere, but with no Adams, there is more opportunity for all Packers skill players. Jones is poised to take advantage.
Why You Should Invest In Aaron Jones This Season
If you don’t already have Aaron Jones on your roster in dynasty, there is some risk in acquiring him. Entering his sixth season and turning 28 in December, Jones isn’t your typical dynasty “buy.” AJ Dillon is a more traditional dynasty acquisition and a good long-term investment. Getting Jones on your roster is a “win now” move if you’re a contender. I believe his athleticism, pass-catching ability, and balanced skill set give Jones at least a 2-3 year window of really good fantasy production.
If you roster Jones, it’s a “hold” for me. The risk of age, AJ Dillon splitting the backfield, and other variables don’t personally scare me from having Jones on my roster. Be mindful of what you give up to acquire Jones if needed. Try not to give up too much future draft capital or assets, but also know you’re getting a player with a high ceiling. It’s easy to get overly focused on the future in dynasty, but we also play to win. Even if you’re just relying on Jones for 2022, the potential this year alone could be worth it. At the very least, I know as long as I have Aaron Jones on my squad, my team won’t be laying any eggs this season.
*All stats from Fantasy Data unless otherwise noted
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