Fantasy football preview: RB A.J. Dillon, Packers

Fantasy football preview: RB A.J. Dillon, Packers

Fantasy football player analysis tips and advice

Fantasy football preview: RB A.J. Dillon, Packers

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Some folks were stunned when the Green Bay Packers drafted running back A.J. Dillon in the second round of the 2020 draft. The team had more pressing needs, already boasting Pro Bowler Aaron Jones and dependable between-the-tackles slogger Jamaal Williams.

As a rookie, Dillon never gained any traction. In 11 games, he had more than five carries just once and 124 of his 224 rushing yards came in one game. It had the feel of a redshirt season.

A little more than a year later, a lot has changed. Williams moved on to Detroit, and Dillon not only came into his own for the Packers but carved out a significant part of the run game – leading Green Bay in carries (187) rushing yards (803) and rushing touchdowns (five).

Jones gets a lot of the fantasy football attention because of his big-play ability and scoring prowess – Jones and Derrick Henry are the only running backs in the NFL to score double-digit touchdowns each of the last three years. However, the season-long disparity in touches between Jones and Dillon was closer than many envisioned when 2021 began.

Of the final 12 games both Dillon and Jones played in, Jones had more carries than Dillon in just seven of them. The Packers had only two games in which a running back carried the ball 20 or more times and both of them were Dillon. He’s no longer mired in Jones’ shadow. The two of them are a legitimate tandem, as shown by Dillon being on the field for 43 percent of Green Bay’s offensive snaps.

What makes the Packers an interesting team to watch this season is that Aaron Rodgers isn’t going to have his two main receiving weapons having traded Davante Adams and letting Marquez Valdes-Scantling leave via free agency. He’s left with a fourth-year role player (Allen Lazard), an old man (Randall Cobb), a career underachiever (Sammy Watkins), and a small-college rookie (Christian Watson) as his primary targets. Those first three can all be single-covered, and Watson has a big learning curve in front of him. Rodgers must depend on his running backs to be a bigger part of the offense – both running the ball and catching it.

This doesn’t mean the Packers are suddenly going to turn into the San Francisco 49ers and run the ball 30 or more times a game, but for the first time in a long time, the strength of Green Bay’s offense is leaning much more toward the runners than the receivers and even the quarterback.

Fantasy football takeaway

For fantasy purposes, Jones remains a RB1 because of his scoring ability, aerial chops, and track record. Dillon is viewed as more than merely a handcuff player for Jones. He has the ability to be on the field much more than he has yet to date and could be a legitimate No. 2, but with so many other clear-cut starters available, he likely has to remain an RB3.

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