Aaron Jones Will Take Off in 2018 (Fantasy Football)
Aaron Jones is going to be a sophomore scud this year. Yes, I said scud. That isn’t a typo.
So what is a scud you ask? A scud is a player not expected to be dominant, but for whatever reason takes off like a missile and becomes a stud by the end of the season. Studs tend to be more predictive and expected, based on the situation and their previous statistics coupled with a high ADP heading into the season.
Scuds are the thrilling players who tend to be under the radar and exist in more nebulous settings. Therefore, they have a higher chance of failing as they do being a hit. They aren’t the guys you draft in the first few rounds. Sure, they are a gamble, but if they are successful, then you look like a genius who just won his or her fantasy league.
Last year, for example, rookie Kareem Hunt was expected to be the primary back after the Spencer Ware injury in the preseason, and his draft capital rose but was he was still considered RB17 on MyFantasyLeague, probably on account that he was still an unproven rookie. However, he surpassed most analysts’ expectations and became a scud, finishing first in rushing yards.
Alvin Kamara, was even more of a scud since no one was expecting him to be anything special in 2017. On MyFantasyLeague, he was ranked as the 34th best running back heading into the 2017 season and found himself on a running back committee that boasted Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson. Then he erupted and helped fantasy owners scud towards championships.
Aaron Jones has all the potential to be a scud this year and is currently ranked as the RB36 on MyFantasyLeague. He has the college resume, the athleticism, and had an efficient first year in Green Bay to back his case. The only potential threat in Green Bay this year appears to be fellow sophomore, Jamaal Williams.
The Big Cheese in College
The reason why Aaron Jones was drafted so late last year (fifth-round, 182nd overall pick) was because he did not play at a premier school. The University of El Paso Texas (UTEP) is still in Division I-A, but it is not a school many connect to football. Jones dominated at UTEP, especially in 2016, which was his final season as a senior.
That year, he had over 2,000 all-purpose yards. As a rusher, he carried the ball 229 times in 12 games for 1,773 yards, which was sixth best in all of college. His average yards per carry was an astonishing 7.7, which was fourth best in college.
Comparably, Jamaal Williams, who went to Bringham Young, and was drafted a round earlier, had 234 carries for 1,375 yards for an average of 5.9 yards per carry. Jones also ran for 17 touchdowns compared to Williams’ 12. Jones was also more prevalent in the passing game, having 28 receptions for 233 yards compared to Williams, who only caught the ball seven times for 80 yards during his final campaign.
Ahead of the Pack in Athleticism
When comparing the athletic profiles, it is not even close. Based on their workout athletics on Player Profiler, it is apparent that Jones is by far the better athlete.
Player Profiler Workout Metrics: Jones vs Williams Comparison
|Name||40-Yard Dash (percentile)||Speed Score (percentile)||Burst Score (percentile)||Agility Score (percentile)||Nike Sparq-X Score (percentile)|
|Aaron Jones||4.56 (59th)||96.2 (47th)||127.3 (88th)||11.02 (87th)||112 (53rd)|
|Jamaal Williams||4.59 (49th)||95.5 (45th)||112.5 (21st)||11.78 (12th)||95.5 (10th)|
Both have average speed. However, Jones is much more explosive than Williams, which means his zero-inertia explosiveness (stop-and-start acceleration) is far better. He is also a lot more agile, which means he has a better short area quickness and balance. This enables him to have the ability to avoid tackles and compile yards before contact. These two metrics are so valuable in evaluating running backs, and Jones is in the upper-percentile while Williams finds himself near the bottom.
Keeping Up with Aaron Joneses’ Running Efficiency
Not only is Aaron Jones a far superior athlete compared to Jamaal Williams, but he was also much more efficient as a running back last year during their rookie seasons in Green Bay. Williams carried the rock 153 times for 556 yards, averaging a paltry 3.6 yards per carry. Jones, on the other hand, had 81 carries for 448 yards, averaging 5.5 yards per carry, almost a two-yard differential. Both had four touchdowns.
Next to Alvin Kamara, Jones was the most efficient running back in the league last year. numberFire’s J.J. Zacharison remarks in one of his articles about how efficient Jones was using their Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. Passing plays are more efficient than running plays so almost all running backs have a negative NEP metric. However, Jones “was just one of 17 running backs since 2000 to finish the season with at least a 0.15 Rushing NEP per rush average”. Basically, one running back a year can post a positive NEP so Jones’ performance last year put him in elite company.
Many Williams’ truthers will argue that Williams was better in the passing game last year, and the statistics do back that up. But to be fair to Jones, he only had nine receptions. If you take away three catches Williams had for monster gains, his catching stats are far less than average. And remember, Jones was more utilized as a receiver in college.
Jonesing for the Opportunity to Scud
Since the running back situation in Green Bay seems uncertain and muddled once positionless Ty Montgomery is thrown into the backfield mix, this, in fact, helps plead Jones’ case for a breakout. Zacharison puts out later in his same article that four trends help identify the breakout running back. They are not considered a handcuff, they are part of an ambiguous backfield, they catch passes, and they come from good offenses. Last year, Jones would have checked all of those except the last one, but with Aaron Rodgers back, he finds himself in the ideal breakout situation.
Rumors are also circulating that Jones has entered camp bigger and stronger than ever. Since he is by far the most efficient and explosive running back on the team, the real question has been his ability to stay on the field. By adding strength and size, especially to his lower body where his knees (two MCL strains last year) seem to be his Achilles heel.
The only other problem that will hinder Jones is Mike McCarthy and his perception of who should start. He has not revealed which running back he prefers to begin the season with, though both Williams and Montgomery have past injury concerns themselves. So whether Jones is the first back out of the gate or not, he should see the field eventually. His goal should be to get on the field and establish his dominance once again, but somehow stay healthy so he can become the de facto number one.
“Mr. Jones and Me Look[ing] into the Future”
Imagine the possibility of a 36th ranked running back finishing as an RB1. Since Kamara did this last year, it is possible for someone else to emerge from running back obscurity like Aaron Jones. He’s built like Kamara, more athletic than Kamara, showed similar efficiency to Kamara last year, and happens to be on a Packer offense that will be one of the best in the league if Rodgers can stay healthy. If you are encouraged by Jones’ potential but want to play it safe, then draft both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in the later rounds, knowing that there is a high probability that one of them will transcend.
However, if you could only draft one, the logical choice would be Aaron Jones, based on most performance statistics and athletic metrics available. The best thing is you won’t be “counting” on him as one of your running back starters, so you will never have to eat “crow.” He could be your RB4 with potential RB1 value. He’s a scud in the making and if he hits, he isn’t just great value for your fantasy team, but will be invaluable. “That’s just about as funky as you can be!”