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Who will be better in the fantasy playoffs?

Nearly everyone believes Aaron Jones is better than AJ Dillon. But is it true? PFN fantasy football analysts Jon Helmkamp and BJ Rudell couldn’t disagree more when it comes to Jones and Dillon. Now, they’re going to tell you why and why it matters for your team as we approach the fantasy playoffs.

Why Aaron Jones will be the best Packers RB in the fantasy playoffs

Argument for Aaron Jones provided by PFN Fantasy Analyst Jon Helmkamp.

The reality of the situation is that some people want to argue Dillon is a better running back — both in talent and in the fantasy football world — than Jones. One of those people is my boss, BJ Rudell. I could not possibly let this transgression stand, so now I’m here to remind people just how good Jones is.

Jones is an elite RB

Out of all running backs currently active in the NFL, Jones is second behind only Nick Chubb in career yards per carry at 5.0. That’s better than Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, and every other running back that people refer to as “good.”

Some people *cough* BJ *cough* will have you believe that the ability to score touchdowns is situational and inconsistent. I am firmly in the other camp and believe that scoring touchdowns is a skill set, including efficiency. In his last 52 games played, Jones has scored 46 touchdowns from scrimmage. Furthermore, Jones is heavily utilized in the passing game, seeing 4.5 targets per game since the start of the 2019 season.

AJ Dillon doesn’t hold a candle to Jones

Yes, Dillon filled in well when Jones went down with injury, scoring 2 touchdowns. But his lack of efficiency and low passing-game numbers do not point to the elite success that Jones has had. With literally no competition for touches, Dillon had only 2 targets and averaged just 3.1 yards per carry last week against Seattle.

At best, Dillon is capable of being a physical bruiser in a complementary role. In his best game of the season that Jones was active in, the two split carries 50/50. Neither running back scored a touchdown, and Jones added 3 receptions for 51 yards. In eight out of 10 contests this year, Dillon has had 2 or fewer targets.

Suppose I’m picking one of these two running backs to trust for the fantasy playoffs. In that case, it’ll be the one with high receiving usage upside, elite career efficiency, and a career tendency to punch in touchdowns, as opposed to the guy acting in a secondary role.

Why AJ Dillon will be the best Packers RB in the fantasy playoffs

Argument for AJ Dillon provided by PFN Fantasy Director BJ Rudell.

I like a good challenge, and there’s no more worthwhile challenge (aside from potty-training children) than debunking conventional wisdom. It is my mission to disavow fantasy managers of misperceptions and to encourage innovative thinking that goes beyond the box scores.

So when I heard Jon was walking the halls of PFN headquarters singing his favorite Aaron Jones-themed ballad, I knew it was time to step up.

Yes, Jones is great, but so is Dillon

First off, I’m a huge fan of Jones on the field and in fantasy. As longtime readers know, I pushed him as the better bet over Jamaal Williams as far back as 2018, even when Williams inexplicably was the weekly starter to begin the season.

So I’m not here to argue against Jones’ greatness. On the contrary, as a top-six fantasy RB for a third straight year, the former fifth-rounder has been money in the bank on draft day.

I wonder though … Nah. Well? Maybe. Yeah, maybe there’s another way to look at this. And it begins with an appreciation for 2020 second-rounder AJ Dillon. Our colleague, PFN Fantasy Analyst Tommy Garrett, said it best in his article on Tuesday:

“In games where Dillon has seen 10 or more opportunities (seven of 21 active games), he has averaged 14.3 carries for 69.1 yards and 0.6 TDs, plus 1.7 receptions for 25.1 receiving yards. In every one of those games, Jones was also on the field.”

We haven’t seen the best of Dillon yet

Dillon’s average fantasy output in those seven games was 15.4 points. And what’s Jones averaging this season — including in games where Dillon has earned only a handful of touches? 16.1 points. Despite being the lead back, earning more TD opportunities, and consistently garnering more touches, Jones has not reasonably outproduced his “backup.”

Now the question is, why? Because if Jones were markedly better than Dillon, we would surely see evidence. Here’s where things get even more interesting. This season, Dillon has been better at breaking tackles, averaging one per 10.8 rush attempts (versus one per 24.6 rush attempts for Jones). That’s an incredible disparity. Dillon is also averaging more yards after contact (2.4) than Jones is (2.1).

The funny thing is, Jones was better than Dillon on both of these metrics last year, back when Dillon was a rookie acclimating to the NFL. A year later, we’ve seen a significant shift.

Also, according to Next Gen Stats, Dillon has faced 8+ defenders in the box on 23.7% of his carries. Jones has confronted stacked boxes only 14.6% of the time — one of the lowest percentages in the league.

I’d rather have Dillon for the fantasy playoffs

So Dillon was more hyped than Jones out of college, has faced more stacked boxes, is breaking more tackles, and is better after contact in general. And all the while, he’s playing second-fiddle to Jones, yet scoring nearly as many fantasy points per game when given 10+ touches.

As great as Jones is, Dillon is just as good, if not better. Is he ready to be the 1A in this backfield when Jones returns? Who knows. But if I had to bet on one of them to help managers most in the fantasy playoffs, I’d buck conventional wisdom and bet on the more talented Dillon.

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