Target Packers RB Aaron Jones and Bears WR Allen Robinson in dynasty
Ben Cunningham @benc1357
What is your last memory of Aaron Jones? A fumble and an injury that held him out of the rest of the NFL Championship. What about Allen Robinson? Sneaking into the playoffs on a poor team and having a below-average game in a loss in the “Super” Wild Card round. Two players with negative vibes to start the dynasty offseason filled with uncertainty about their futures due to potential free agency. This is when the value of a player can sink below their actual value to a dynasty team, and we should consider being buyers at the right price. Most dynasty players love certainty, and upcoming free agents provide enough uncertainty that savvy players can swoop in and take advantage.
If dynasty football had a Human Resources department there would be constant allegations of age discrimination. NFL players would have legitimate complaints of being dismissed for younger, and cheaper, employees. While the “age cliff” is a real concern there are values to be found in veteran players, especially if you can acquire them at the right cost in startup drafts or through trades. There is a strong emphasis here on acquiring them at the right cost, we should not overpay for aging veterans. Jones will be 26 during the 2021 season and Robinson turns 28 just before the season starts, these ages often scare many dynasty players away and rightfully so. However, let’s explore these aging studs to see if we should be investing in them as they search for new teams in the coming free agency period.
Aaron Jones’ career got off to a slow start, after being drafted in the 5th round out of UTEP he took a while to get going due to injuries in his first and second seasons. Over the past two seasons Aaron Jones has been a league winner. 2019 was his banner year with 19 touchdowns to go with 1,558 yards from scrimmage and 49 receptions, good enough to finish as the RB2 behind the historic season by Christian McCaffrey. He followed that performance with a RB5 finish in this past season, again missing some time to injury and conceding volume to Jamaal Williams and rookie AJ Dillon. And then, that fumble happened.
Why is this important? Dynasty players have a tendency to over react, and that is putting it lightly. The best players have long memories and good patience, but many over react. When thinking of Jones many players will think of constant nagging injuries, uncertainty around where he will play in 2021, and the fumble that ended his season. Those negative thoughts could lead players to draft him later or be more willing than they were just a month ago to trade the soon to be free agent. One could argue, and I would, that Jones is the top free agent running back this season and should be a top target for dynasty players.
The Green Bay Packers currently have the fourth least projected salary cap space in the NFL in the upcoming season. This means some tough decisions are coming for a team that has gone all in only to lose two NFC Championship games in a row. They have an aging QB that consumes 21% of their salary cap and a certain stud WR that needs a new contract. While decisions and creativity around Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams’ contracts could create some cap relief, teams in situations like this are usually best served not investing heavily at RB. Combine the above with the team drafting AJ Dillon in the second round of the 2020 draft and it appears Jones has played his last game on the Frozen Tundra.
Early projections from many rookie draft experts suggest that 2021 may be a lean year for rookie RB talent. Add this to the list of NFL teams with the salary cap space to afford a veteran RB salary and a few potential destinations for Jones emerge. The Jaguars, Jets, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Broncos, 49ers, and Cardinals all stand out as teams that could use a RB upgrade and will have the resources to consider signing a player like Jones. Any potential landing spot is likely to be a downgrade in overall offense compared to the Packers thus limiting touchdown upside, however if the new team commits to true workhorse volume (unlike the maddening committee approach in Green Bay) Jones could still finish as a RB1. Many players are concerned about RBs entering their late 20s, however at 782 career touches Jones is relatively lightly used leading a new team to potentially run him into the ground over the next couple of seasons. That high volume, while not great for Jones’ health long term could be a gold mine for dynasty players who like to see their RBs do things like this.
Given all of these circumstances targeting Jones in the late 3rd or early 4th round of a startup could be a winning strategy if he falls that far. In terms of trade value a middle or late 1st round rookie pick should get the deal done if you feel your team is one RB away from glory and the other player is looking to sell. If the pieces fall in place to acquire Aaron Jones dynasty players should seriously consider doing so.
Would most dynasty players be able to tell you that Allen Robinson was the WR9 in PPR scoring in 2020? Surrounded by sexy names like DK Metcalf and Justin Jefferson it is no surprise that a veteran player on an average team with a perceived bad offense would be easily forgotten. Yet after the Bears week 11 bye Robinson’s output improved and he was the WR5 through the end of the fantasy playoffs. In the coming offseason Robinson will likely be looking for the third team of his career after up and down stints with Jacksonville and Chicago.
An unfortunate truth about Robinson’s career is that he has never had a good quarterback throwing him the ball. A vast majority of the targets in his career have come from Blake Bortles and Mitch Trubisky, hardly future Hall of Famers. Yet Robinson has continued to produce WR1 levels nearly every season, a testament to just how elite he is and how great he could be with competent quarterback play. Because his name is not in lights each week this can create a lack of perceived value by dynasty players that don’t realize what they have. In case they forgot, here is a reminder.
There is a chance that Robinson is retained by the Bears. The team is middle of the road in terms of available salary cap space and behind him there are no dominant WRs ready to assume the WR1 role (Darrell Mooney is a name to keep track of though). Robinson had the second highest salary cap hit in 2020 behind Khalil Mack, so the money could be there to work something out. However, one would not blame him for testing free agency to see if he can find a landing spot with a better quarterback and chance to win.
In free agency many teams with cap space to burn could use a stud WR. Depending on what the Colts decide to do at quarterback that could be a good situation, imagine Matthew Stafford and Robinson meeting up in Indy. With Chris Godwin an upcoming free agent Tampa Bay is another interesting possibility. A dream scenario, though highly unlikely due to cap space, would be replacing Sammy Watkins in Kansas City to match with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Given Robinson’s consistent production and the likelihood that his quarterback support can only improve he should be poised for at least 2-3 more years of WR1 production for your dynasty team.
When doing a startup dynasty draft most players tend to target young assets with their picks, which is understandable. However after drafting early youth Allen Robinson would make a nice target in the 5th or 6th round if he is still available. There are two approaches in trading for Robinson that players should consider. He likely can be acquired for a mid first round rookie pick, some may even move him for a late first round pick if you are on the clock and rookie fever sets in. Another approach to consider is trading a 2020 rookie WR that you have lost confidence in. Maybe you didn’t like what you saw from Henry Ruggs or Jerry Jeudy, yet some players may be enticed by making their roster younger and be willing to move Robinson for them. You may have to add a smaller piece to get that deal done, so remember to always be willing to throw in a late round rookie pick to seal the deal.
In conclusion, there appears to be a decent chance that both Aaron Jones and Allen Robinson will be on new teams that will offer similar or improved fantasy scoring opportunities in 2021. However, due to the uncertainty of their futures and some questions from their pasts, their value may be depressed enough that a sharp player can take advantage. Go send an offer to your opponent that is rostering these two studs and see what you can accomplish.