Aaron Jones has been a top-15-per-game fantasy football producer at the running back position in each of the past five seasons, but 2023 provides some serious challenges.
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How Will Aaron Jones Be Impacted by the Departure of Aaron Rodgers?
Before I get to the direct impact of Rodgers, you must be made aware of the gradual signs of decline for Jones that your league members are likely unaware of. Here are his half-PPR points per touch averages over the past four seasons:
2022: 0.83 (career-low)
That’s a concerning stat by itself, but it gets worse. The recent decline in per-touch efficiency has come while his points per target are trending up. Through four seasons, Jones was averaging 1.1 fantasy points per target, but in the two seasons since, his rate sits at 1.5.
That tells me that he is relying more on his role as a pass catcher now than ever, so a shift to a starting quarterback with fewer career touchdown passes (three) than the previous quarterback has MVPs (four) is a major concern.
It stands to reason that defenses are going to be less threatened by Jordan Love than Rodgers, thus making every individual touch a bit of an uphill battle.
A dip in yardage efficiency can be offset in fantasy by a spike touchdown season, but the odds of Green Bay being in scoring position as often as they were with Rodgers (fourth in red zone drives per-game since 2020) are low. And I say “low” to be kind.
Is AJ Dillon a True Threat To Unseat Jones Atop This Backfield?
Talent-wise, yes. Dillon has a better conversion rate (28.9%) on carries inside the 10-yard line than Jones does (23.8%) during their three seasons together and is averaging more yards per carry after contact through three NFL seasons than Jones, Josh Jacobs, or Dalvin Cook did at this point in their career.
Dillon owns a 78% catch rate and is in the final year of his rookie deal, meaning the franchise will need to make a decision on his future in less than 12 months.
Contractually speaking, the odds get longer. Jones counts $8.2 million against the cap this season and $17.7 million next season. That’s a lot of money to pay any running back, and it’s simply unjustifiable if Jones falls to RB2 on this depth chart. Of course, all signs point to this being a run-centric offense, thus giving both backs a chance to hold value, but money talks, and it doesn’t make cents to put Jones on the pine.
At the end of the day, a top-15 season is a ceiling outcome for Jones, and it is too optimistic to draft him expecting such a season. He is still my favorite Packer to draft (damning with faint praise to a degree, but still) and should have his fair share of spike weeks when this team competes (maybe a sell-high option?), but Jones living up to his résumé is not something I’m betting on in 2023.
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