Forget that Aaron Jones missed the first and last two games of last season, or even that the Green Bay Packers‘ lead rusher sat out more than a week of training camp with a tight hamstring. Few running backs enter 2019 with the advantages of third-year talent.
He may not be among the proven-threat club of rushers demanding eye-popping contracts this offseason, but a healthy Jones finds himself fitting nicely into a run-centric new offense under new Packers coach Matt LaFleur that favors him as breakout fantasy football contender this season at the running back position.
Jones is expected to make his preseason debut Thursday night in Winnipeg when the Packers take on the Oakland Raiders at 7 p.m., but the outlook on his ability has been prematurely reinforced with his performance in a limited 2018 season.
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Aaron Jones Fantasy Football Projections: Outlook & Preview
A two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy to begin the season bookended for Jones with a season-ending knee injury, but the raw numbers suggest he could have eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards in a full season.
Not only did Jones average 5.5 yards on 133 carries in his 12 games played last season, but he also found the end zone during seven of them. His most promising game came in a 31-12 Week 10 victory over the Miami Dolphins, where he rushed 15 times for 145 yards with two touchdowns. That’s nearly a first down every time he touched the ball.
As long as his hamstring issue — which Jones dismissed as “just a little tightness” — doesn’t come back to bite him, Jones is poised to excel if he can improve one specific dimension: his pass-catching.
LaFleur heavily favors the play-action passing game along with regular incorporation of screen passes, with Jones among the prime targets with his burst of speed making him capable of breaking off for large runs. Coming into training camp, Jones even said pass-catching was his focus.
When to Draft Aaron Jones in 2019 Fantasy Football
While Fantasy Pros ranks Jones as the 14th overall running back for the 2019 season, just inside Tier 3, his average draft position is a bit lower at 16. In a 12-team, PPR league, that means Jones will almost certainly be around in the second round and becomes a must-take if he sticks around until the third round.
Jones figures to be a perfectly suitable RB2 if he only reproduces his numbers over a full 16 games this season, but the upside could see him shining in your RB1 spot in no time. The likes of Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson will still be top options overall and should not be passed up if seeking a rusher, but Jones offers more than some other options of similar ranking.
Kansas City’s Damien Williams is in a worrisome situation with his recent injury and Andy Reid’s ‘running-back-by-committee’ approach, while Jones’ outright abilities at a dual-threat back with Aaron Rodgers in LaFleur’s system offer greater potential than Indianapolis’ Marlon Mack or Detroit’s Kerryon Johnson.
Final verdict: Grabbing Jones in the mid-to-late second round is a viable move, but rolling the dice on him being around in the third round offers a great value — especially if you have an early pick.