January 21, 2021

Aaron Jones’ injury means fantasy managers need a backup plan

6 min read
*Bing* There is that familiar notification from your phone. It’s a unique notification ringtone, set...

*Bing* There is that familiar notification from your phone. It’s a unique notification ringtone, set specifically for fantasy football notifications so you don’t mistake it for a pesky text or anything else. You grab your phone and your heart drops. Aaron Jones has an injury and may not be an option in your fantasy team in Week 7!

According to  NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Jones suffered a (mild) calf strain and will be a game-time decision. The number three overall running back, in PPR Formats, might miss Week 7 against one of the softest defensive matchups versus running backs (Houston Texans are ranked 4th in D-PAC against the position). On top of injuries and bye weeks stacking up, now fantasy managers everywhere need to create a contingency plan for Jones. If you dont already have another running back on your bench, let’s work out a “Plan B”.

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If Aaron Jones’ injury keeps him out of Week 7, who are replacements to target still available on waiver wires?

The good news for fantasy managers dealing with Aaron Jones’ injury, is that the Packers play in the early slot on Sunday. This week there are only five contests in that time slot, leaving eight later matchups, including Monday Night Football, to pick from for extra insurance.

The low hanging fruit; Jamaal Williams

This is the easiest, and best, option if available if Aaron Jones’ injury causes him to miss time. When I jumped into my FleaFlicker.com leagues I noticed Jamaal Williams is rostered in only 44% of leagues as of Friday afternoon I was shocked.  Williams has been the Green Bay Packers number two for the past few years. However, he has looked to take a step forward in 2020 when given opportunities and is one of the best backup fantasy running backs in the NFL. 

The only thing holding Williams back is a lack of opportunities because frankly, Aaron Jones is just that good of a player. But with the opportunities he has received, he has produced. Williams is averaging 4.3 yards per carry and 9.2 yards per reception, snagging passes from Aaron Rodgers with a 93% catch rate.  He also has eight broken tackles on only 47 touches, 17%. When comparing his numbers to Jones’ evaded tackle rate, 16 on 103 opportunities, 15.5%, Williams is a capable number two.

And being number two on the Green Bay offense is a pretty good place to be when the time to step up comes calling. The Packers dont run the most often in the NFL, 26th in total attempts, but when they run the ball, they run it quite well. The Packers are 12th in total rushing yards (697), fifth in yards per attempt as a team (five). They might not have the most rushing yards, but Aaron Jones has two receiving touchdowns and 20 red-zone touches. Williams will get opportunities, one way or another, if the team gets near the end zone.

Justin Jackson; Rostered in 55% of leagues

Yes, he is listed as “Questionable”, but he practiced in full on Friday so it is quite likely he plays on Sunday. In Week 5 against New Orleans, Jackson ran the ball 15 times for 71 yards and saw six targets in the passing game as well. Now the Los Angeles Chargers host the Jacksonville Jaguars who were just shredded by D’Andre Swift and Adrian Peterson, who combined for 156 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

After limited action due to injuries and a healthy Austin Ekeler, Jackson took the lead for the Chargers, out-touching Joshua Kelley last week 21 to 12. But more importantly, Jackson was clearly the better back. Jackson rushed for 4.7 yards per carry compared to Kelley’s 2.6.

Giovani Bernard; Rostered in 31% of leagues

Joe Mixon is already ruled out for Week 7, providing more certainty than Aaron Jones’ injury status as to who will get the start for Cincinnati. Giovani Bernard gets a huge boost in value for this week. The Cincinnati Bengals 164 rush attempts on the season are the 13th most in the league, and Mixon currently has the 10th most passing targets among running backs. Now all of that work, at least for a week, gets funneled to Bernard as the Bengals host the Cleveland Browns.

Related | Giovani Bernard Fantasy Outlook: Can you trust him with Joe Mixon out?

The Browns have the fifth-highest D-PAC versus running backs and are averaging 23+ points a week to the position. The last time we saw the Browns defense, they were giving up 101 yards on 20 carries to James Conner who rushed the ball for 5.5 yards per carry.

Tim Patrick; Rostered in 45% of leagues

If you have other running backs and can pivot to a separate position in your flex spot, Tim Patrick could be a great waiver wire option. Patrick has seen 15 targets over the past two Denver Broncos games, that he has turned into 214 receiving yards and a touchdown. 

The Broncos had a Week 5 bye splashed in the middle there, so we can’t just look at overall points. But in terms of points per game since Week 4, Patrick’s 18.7 ranks 11th among all receivers over that time. Patrick is also excelling in PFN’s Fantasy Point Differential metric, with a positive 27%, he ranks as the WR22 on the season.

Now the Broncos get the Kansas City Chiefs coming into Mile High Stadium in what should be a nice AFC West shootout. Drew Lock and that passing attack are going to have to air the ball out to keep up with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense.

The emergency fantasy dart throw for Aaron Jones

Tre’Quan Smith; Rostered in 30% of leagues

Tre’Quan Smith seems like an odd choice to make up for Aaron Jones’ injury, but in a pinch, he could be a good flex play this week. Michael Thomas was ruled out for Week 7 with a hamstring injury and Emmanuel Sanders s also absent. That leaves Tre’Quan Smith Marquez Callaway and Bennie Fowler as the team’s top receiving options left standing, at least according to the team’s depth chart.

Smith has out-snapped all other receivers on the team thus far and leads the group in targets as well. Alvin Kamara is the unofficial WR1 on the team at this point, but Smith is the de-facto lead receiver with Thomas and Sanders missing time. With a juicy matchup against the Carolina Panthers, 10th in D-PAC vs. WRs, at home and available almost anywhere, Smith could be a great “in case of emergency” play this week.

Be prepared, but don’t panic

Ultimately the worst part of the Aaron Jones injury from a fantasy point of view is that there is just so much up in the air right now.  If this strain is really as mild as Jones hopes, fantasy managers won’t need to do anything last minute.  But it is imperative to have a backup plan in place and snagging one of these free agents, just in case, is the first step to ensure you have a quick pivot should you need it this Sunday.

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