The NFL can vary a lot from week to week. There is no better example of this than juxtaposing last week’s “Bye-apocalypse” with all 32 teams in action this week.
That also makes fantasy football lineup decisions more difficult. Should fantasy managers start Green Bay Packers RB Aaron Jones or AJ Dillon this week?
Aaron Jones’ Fantasy Outlook This Week
Jones hasn’t played a full game since Week 1. In past years, AJ Dillon was quite productive when filling in for Jones. That hasn’t been the case. Nevertheless, Jones’ workload will be dictated by his health.
Last week, Jones was able to make it through an entire game without suffering a setback. That’s the good news. The bad news is he only played 36% of the snaps. He was outcarried by Dillon and ran fewer routes than his counterpart.
MORE: 2023 RB Fantasy Football Rankings
Of course, it was also Jones’ first game back. The expectation after last week was that Jones’ workload would increase this week. Based on reports from the Packers’ camp, I’m not sure that’s the case.
It is now Week 8. Since the season started with the Packers’ first game in Week 1, Jones has yet to log a full practice. Not a single one.
As if that isn’t concerning enough, head coach Matt LaFleur did not mince words when he said, “I don’t think he’s 100 percent by any stretch.”
Jones initially strained his hamstring nearly two months ago. After that game, he said he could’ve gone back in. That wasn’t entirely true, as Jones missed the next two games, tried to return in Week 4, and then missed Week 5.
The hope was he would be fully healthy following the Packers Week 6 bye. That didn’t happen. Now, heading into Week 8, there is no ambiguity on the matter — we know Jones isn’t fully healthy.
Furthermore, the matchup this week is a rough one. The Vikings are allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. They’re allowing 3.6 yards per carry to running backs, putting Jones’ ability to be efficient at less than 100 percent in question.
AJ Dillon’s Fantasy Outlook This Week
As for Dillon, he’s always been a guy I liked to target in fantasy drafts because of the standalone RB3 value and the contingent upside if Jones were to get hurt. This year, Dillon has been quite a disappointment.
MORE: PFN Consensus Rankings
In the three games following Jones’ injury, Dillon scored 7.3, 3.3, and 1.1 fantasy points. Like Joshua Kelley, if the backup can’t be startable with the starter out, when exactly would fantasy managers start him?
Then, in Week 5, Dillon got a gift in an incredibly soft Raiders run defense. He had his best game of the season, posting 13.6 fantasy points. Last week, even with Jones active, Dillon had another solid outing with 11.5 fantasy points. Suddenly, he looks more like the guy we remember from the past three seasons.
Of course, Dillon has the same matchup concerns against the Vikings’ stout run defense as Jones. It’s hard to envision Dillon having efficiency on the ground. While he did catch two passes for 34 yards last week, he still ran just 10 routes.
Both Dillon and Jones are unlikely to make much of an impact as receivers this week. The Vikings have surrendered just 8.3% of their total receiving yards to running backs, the third-fewest in the league. Opposing teams target backs just 10.7% of the time against them, the lowest in the league.
This is a difficult matchup for two underperforming running backs in one of the worst offenses in the NFL.
Which of the RBs Should You Start?
The Pro Football Network Start/Sit Optimizer has this firmly in favor of Jones. The Packers RB1 is projected for 11.4 points, including 43.7 rushing yards, 3.0 receptions, and 20.2 receiving yards. That is significantly higher than Dillon’s projection of 7.5 fantasy points.
I agree with the Optimizer that Jones remains the better player, but I am very concerned about his upside. Jones is a bad bet to score, and the matchup suggests he won’t be particularly efficient either on the ground or through the air.
Given the lack of bye weeks this week, fantasy managers should not have to resort to starting Dillon. But I would also try and avoid Jones as well.
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