Vikings’ Aaron Jones Snubbed as a Top-10 Running Back by NFL Personnel

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GABY VELASQUEZ/ EL PASO TIMES / USA TODAY NETWORKCredit: GABY VELASQUEZ/ EL PASO TIMES / USA TODAY NETWORK

Heading into the offseason, the Minnesota Vikings knew they needed to upgrade the running back position. The Vikings did just that. The team released Alexander Mattison and signed former Green Bay Packers’ star running back Aaron Jones.

Although Jones battled injuries in 2023, he’s night and day a better running back than Mattison. In 2023, Jones put up an overall Pro Football Focus (PFF) grade of 80.9 and a running grade of 85.7. These are excellent grades for a running back and something Jones does each and every season. For reference, Mattison finished with a 61.8 overall and a 70.2 running grade per PFF last season.

Minnesota Vikings’ Aaron Jones not a top-10 running back but an honorable mention?

In a Jeremy Fowler (ESPN) survey released Monday, anonymous NFL executives, scouts, and coaches ranked the top-10 NFL running backs entering 2024. Unfortunately, Aaron Jones did not make the list. He was, however, listed as the top honorable mention, just missing out on the the 10th spot.

[Aaron] Jones finished the 2023 season with five consecutive 100-yard games through the regular season and playoffs. He lost a tight battle with Etienne for the 10th spot. “Green Bay’s offense was completely different when he was healthy,” an NFC defensive coach said. “He’s a difference-maker”

Jeremy Fowler (ESPN)

Although he was snubbed from the top-10 list, it does sound like he gave Jacksonville Jaguars’ running back Travis Etienne Jr. a run for his money for that 10th spot. Jones only played in 11 games last season, and he was limited (or on a snap-count) for a lot of those games. Still, he averaged 4.9 yards per carry, right at his career average (5.0 YPC). When healthy, Jones is that dude.

Injury concerns, combined with his advanced age (for a running back) of 29-years-old, lead to Jones’ snub. But there is a reason why opposing defensive coordinators had more anxiety playing against the Packers last season, when Jones was on the field.

2024 season outlook for Minnesota Vikings’ running back Aaron Jones

It’s hard to gauge how Jones will do in this offense, but early reports from Minnesota Vikings minicamp camp have been exactly what you may have expected. His burst, power and catching ability stand out to those who have gotten used to watching Alexander Mattison.

“Jones looks different doing these drills than Alexander Mattison did. He explodes. He bursts differently. His pass-catching ability is also evident.”

Alec Lewis – The Athletic

The offensive line run blocking struggled last season, Minnesota Vikings’ head coach Kevin O’Connell prefers to throw a majority of the time, and with Sam Darnold at the helm teams may want shift their focus to stopping the run and let Darnold try to make plays. Turnovers have been a massive issue in Darnold’s tenure in the NFL.

Despite these potential hindrances for a successful run game, O’Connell is determined to improve the running game. According to Draft Sharks Fantasy, Jones’ 2024 projections are as follows:

  • 175.9 rushing attempts
  • 773.0 rushing yards
  • 5.25 rushing touchdowns
  • 39.6 receptions
  • 295.6 receiving yards
  • 1.56 receiving touchdowns

Related: Vikings Beat Out a Bunch of Teams to Land Blake Cashman

These aren’t dominant projections, for a running back, but they’re still lightyears better than what we saw from Mattison in 2023. Don’t forget, Mattison averaged just 3.9 YPC last season and failed to score a rushing touchdown all season, the first time a starting running back has ever failed to record a regular season rushing TD in Minnesota Vikings’ franchise history.

Aaron Jones is a huge factor in the Vikings’ 2024-25 success

If Jones can hit those projected stats for the 2024 season, that should be a win for Minnesota Vikings’ fans. O’Connell still really likes what he saw in Ty Chandler last season, so expect Chandler to receive a lot of snaps too.

There’s also been reports that the Vikings are close to resigning Cam Akers who showed some burst and speed before tearing his Achilles last season. In the end, Jones is an upgrade this season and should provide the 2024 running game a must needed jolt.

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