The Green Bay Packers do not have many believers in the national media. In some ways, that makes sense. The Joe Barry-led defense has failed to maintain any kind of consistency despite having seven (now eight) first round picks as part of their unit. Jordan Love, the wide receivers, and the tight ends are all young and unproven as well.
So it makes sense that many question whether the Packers will be good or not. What does not make sense, however, is why these questions are spilling over to the proven facets of the Packers’ roster. Aaron Jones, for example, just received some ridiculous projections from ESPN.
Green Bay Packers Running Back Aaron Jones Is Not Projected to Be Very Good
ESPN published some fantasy projections for each position in the NFL. While Jones had a career-high 1,121 rushing yards last season in an offense that was way too pass-heavy, he is projected to decline in 2023:
YEAR CAR YDS AVG TD REC YDS TD FPTS 2022 STATISTICS 213 1121 5.3 2 59 395 5 248.6 2023 PROJECTIONS 195 963 4.9 4 52 401 3 226.082023 OUTLOOK:Jones enters 2023 looking for his fifth consecutive top-10 fantasy campaign. The 2017 fifth-round pick has been as reliable as they come, finishing inside the top 15 at RB in targets, receptions and scrimmage yards each of the past four seasons.His rushing efficiency has been nothing short of elite — he sits second in yards per carry (5.1) among 40 RBs with 550-plus carries since he was drafted in 2017. Jones has 11 receiving TDs over the past two seasons, though his goal line work has been trending down (two carries inside the 5-yard line last season) and helps explain why he produced only three top-10 fantasy weeks in 2022.The 28-year-old will continue to share the backfield with AJ Dillon and the offense figures to lose some steam with Aaron Rodgers gone, so Jones is best viewed as a good RB2.
In Reality, Aaron Jones Will Have a Bigger Role with the Green Bay Packers in 2023
The projections that Jones will see his numbers decline even further in 2023 is insulting at worst and non-sensical at best. As mentioned twice before, Rodgers ensured that the Packers were a pass-first offense. Now that he is gone, there will be a greater balance between the running and passing games.
And there should be! There should have been last year! In 2022, the Packers were 4-1 when Jones had 15+ carries (he played in 17 games; he got 15+ carries in less than a third of the games he played).
When Dillon received 15+ carries, the Packers were 3-0. The formula for winning games was there. The person who controlled what plays were run (Rodgers) just chose to ignore it.
Now, there is just one reason why Jones (and Dillon for that matter) could see their production decrease in 2023: the offensive line. While David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins were above-average run blockers, the rest of the offensive line was average at best some weeks, and below average other weeks. Still, even with poor blocking on the right side, Jones ran for over 1,100 yards.
The Packers offensive line is not likely to change much, and both center Josh Myers and right guard Jon Runyan Jr. were better in 2022 than they were in 2021. If they continue to take steps forward, the line will not be a reason to worry. (For the record, the entire projected offensive line for 2023 had above average pass blocking grades in 2022).
It stands to reason, therefore, that ESPN is underestimating Jones and the Packers, at least in the run game. Say what they will about Love, he is not going to check out of Matt LaFleur’s play calls as much as Rodgers did. It is a far wiser projection to suppose that both Jones and Dillon will receive more carries in 2023, not less.
And if that happens, well, the Packers could surprise a lot of people.