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-- Our offseason 'Rewind' reports are where we look at an individual player's previous season(s) of work--analyzing and researching it for clues on whether it was a 'blip' performance, or signs of future greatness...or signs of a mega-bust approaching. --
OK, so I got a little too excited about Aaron Jones when I conducted my draft guide studies in May 2018.
This is why going back through the season (a ‘Rewind’) on certain players/teams is so important. Sometimes/a lot of times our memories of what happened a year ago can get fuzzy or jaded. We watch a lot of football, we flip around to all these highlights, then there’s all the NFL draft prospect scouting and video clips after the season – sometimes your feelings/instincts on the player are misconstrued in your own mind. Such as the case with Aaron Jones.
I remembered Jones as quite a little ball of fire when he was forced into the lineup in Week 4 due to the inevitable Ty Montgomery injury. Jones caught me off guard with his quick pop in 2017. I thought he was OK by all the metrics and tape, but he popped right away in the NFL when given a chance.
Jones looked solid in his Week 4 NFL debut against the Bears. He followed Week 4 up with somewhat of a coming out party in Week 5 – 19 carries for 125 yards and one TD in a Packers win over the Cowboys in a highly watched affair. And it’s important to note that it was highly viewed because of the popularity of the two teams involved – you take a big audience, analysts who want to make superstars out of anything they they can by blasting your ear drums with how great what you’re watching is that very moment, and then add in the fact that Jones was a rookie (Rookie Derangement Syndrome) having this big game on a big viewing stage. The fuse was late for his superstardom in Week 5, but there’s a problem with that…and we’ll get to it momentarily.
The following week, Aaron Rodgers went down, Brett Hundley came in and Aaron Jones had a mediocre game against Minnesota. Just as we all thought Jones now might just be a flash in the pan, the next week he dropped 131 rushing yards on the Saints on 17 carries and including a 50+ yard rushing TD. The fuse was lit once again -- two 100+ yard games in his first three starts. Start measuring him for the gold jacket…
As fast as he rose up, Jones was taken away from the fantasy world with a minor injury the next week which that caused him to miss time/snaps and opened the door for Jamaal Williams to become a thing to finish out the season.
Jones’s 2017 preview, to us in the football world, was a dangerous one -- a hot start on a popular team and then taken away from us quickly, so that all we remember are the brief good/great things. We can look back at his game log a year later and see his four week stretch where he was the main guy and we can extrapolate the math and fuzzy math will foretell a superstar NFL running back in our midst.
The problem is, to some degree, it’s all a hoax. And, to some degree, I fell for it putting together the initial draft guide projections for 2018. And, to some degree, I’ve sucked some a few of you in by mentioning my glee for Aaron Jones early in 2018 – I’d like to recuse myself at this point for any wildly positive Aaron Jones mentions to folks in public or private.
It’s not that I now believe Aaron Jones is a bust. He might be the best all-around RB on the Packers. It’s just after going back and watching all of his 2017 work, I realize now that he’s just a generic-good, run-of-the-mill ‘good’ running back. A ‘good’ running back on a team with several good running backs to compete with for touches in 2018. His path to FF glory is not as clear as I thought. We’ll get to the depth chart dilemma.
What really struck me in my Rewind tape review was -- Aaron Jones really wasn’t as good/great, on the field, as I remembered him to be in his four-game stretch of goodness.
Week 4 versus Chicago (13-49-1), he entered a game after Ty Montgomery went down and the Packers were starting to embarrass the Bears on MNF. It almost looked like the Bears had given up. He was ‘OK’ thrown into this spot; looked a bit nervous in his debut which is fine.
Week 5 versus Dallas (19-125-1), Jones officially started against Dallas…a Dallas team minus their entire defensive power source in the form of Sean Lee – and let’s stop there for a moment.
**Watching Jaylon Smith constantly whiff on tackles in this game -- Jaylon Smith is an abomination of an inside linebacker compared to Sean Lee. How this guy was considered by more than a few to be the #1 draft prospect in football (until he got injured) is beyond me. I didn’t like his tape at full health with Notre Dame back when I scouted for the NFL Draft -- and in the NFL he looks even worse than what I saw on tape in college. Basically, Sean Lee is one of the top 5 most valuable players in football…he’s like a coach on the field for a team with absolutely zero coaching at all. Dallas is borderline very good with Lee and a total disaster without him. Jaylon Smith is the Tyrann Mathieu of completely overrated, overhyped defenders…actually, Jaylon Smith is worse.** OK, now I feel better.
So, Aaron Jones ran all over Lee-less Dallas, gashing 5-10+ yard chunks at a time. It was a joke. Any RB could’ve had the same moment.
Week 6 versus Minnesota (13-41-0), Aaron Rodgers hurt early and then the walls caved in on Jones with a very good run defense unfooled by/all over him.
Week 7 versus New Orleans (17-131-1), Jones had 4-67-1 on the first drive…wide open holes and he ran nicely through them. He was fine all the rest of the drives but not like ‘wow’…just solid/good/fine.
My quick scouting summary of Jones in his 2017 Week’s 4-7 stretch – very solid, starter-level NFL running back with quick feet, solid toughness…and ‘nothing special’. He’s good enough to run through open holes and the Green Bay Packers have a very good offensive line at full strength. Jones is just a 4.56 runner…not a speed-burner. Nice agility (6.82 three-cone, 4.20 shuttle). Looks OK with Brett Hundley, looks really good with Aaron Rodgers.
I walked into this thinking Aaron Jones was a possible sneaky B+ talent upside for 2018…I had really fond memories of his 2017. I left the study thinking he’s a B-/C+ talent that benefits from the O-Line and Aaron Rodgers, which means he can be a nice fantasy play IF he the main starter and IF Rodgers/the O-Line is in place.
‘IF he’s starting’ is the whole crux of the fantasy situation…if he’s starting and the main carry guy, not just rotational RRBC hell.
Pre-Rewind, I was like…oh, yeah…Jones will beat out always injured Ty Montgomery and less dynamic Jamaal Williams. Post-Rewind, I was like…he’s good but so is Montgomery-Williams and Green Bay isn’t talking like Jones is their guy as much as they like Ty.
I don’t want to get myself into an RB cluster digging for gold and only finder silver. A lot of analysts secretly like Jones, so there’s no bargain to be had here to take a cheap look usually.
Jones is a solid talent, and I’m all-in if he’s the clear starter with Aaron Rodgers. I just don’t see enough to make a heavy bet that Jones will be ‘the guy’. He goes from strong sleeper to just ‘sleeper’. He’s not magic, he’s good in a confusing, possibly fantasy-beneficial offense. A possible RB2 in 2018…or a possible RB4, cut after Week 1 to make room for other hot thing that arises.
-- R.C. Fischer
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