Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio shares its pre-draft NFL scouting report on Packers starter Aaron Jones, one of Matt’s underrated backs in the 2017 NFL Draft.
I’m known for my touting of Jamaal Williams on Twitter. I’m not as well known by non-RSP subscribers for my reviews of Aaron Jones, a player a little more than a point away from Williams in my overall pre-draft rankings. If his ball security efficiency was the next tier higher, he could have been the No.4 runner on my board.
Jones was one of three running backs in the 2017 class that I tabbed as “Underrated,” for the publication:
Aaron Jones, UTEP: After Christian McCaffrey and Jeremy McNichols, the Combine might have been kindest to Jones. The UTEP runner validated what was evident on tape: speed, acceleration, and change of direction.
Jones looked like an NFL prospect with a future as a contributor when studying his tape against Arkansas and Texas. He’s a smart runner with an understanding of how to work through traffic and finish through wraps at all three levels of a defense.
Jones’s blocking and receiving should eventually earn him playing time. His work from the backfield could keep him in the lineup.
Here’s Jones’ full report from the 2017 RSP publication. If you’re not familiar with the Rookie Scouting Portfolio publication, learn more here.
10. Aaron Jones, UTEP (5-9, 208)
One of the RSP’s sleepers at the position, Jones is a decisive back who understands down and distance
discipline as a decision maker. He takes what the creases give and keeps his team on-schedule, especially in pivotal situations.
He’s a patient, mature runner who identifies the right crease and work through it with confidence. Like
Gallman, Jones understands that sometimes the only choice to help his team is to abandon the guidelines for running behind blocks and ride the backs of his offensive linemen to ensure the play doesn’t stall in the backfield.
Although Jones’ size is on the periphery of the conventional sweet spot at the position (210-225), he
had the power to routinely earn positive yards when wrapped by SEC and Big 12 defensive lineman, or when hit head-on by inside linebackers. An agile back, he times his spin moves well, initiating contact with approaching defensive lineman and spinning off the opponent for extra yards.
His stiff-arm is quick and effective, and he understands how to shoot low and get under opponents with his pad level. When working downhill, he has underrated strength, shedding high wraps from defensive tackles in the hole and bouncing off linebacker’s arm tackles at his legs.
Though strong for his size, Jones doesn’t bounce off multiple defenders within a run, and he rarely earns more than a yard or two with his finishing push after a lineman wraps him. Jones’ ball security is sound, although carrying the ball a little higher on his frame could improve his career fumble rate of 1 per 81 carries, squarely in the RSP’s Committee Tier. He’s conscientious about carrying the ball under his sideline arm.
His agility is excellent. He has a useful arsenal of jump cuts and efficient control of his stride. Jones maximizes his runs with stride variation to eliminate his opponents’ angles of pursuit at the edge of the crease and in the open field. When working the edges of the formation, Jones has the top-end acceleration (4.2-second 20-Shuttle) to beat linebackers to the corner and up the sideline. When cornerbacks lack a good angle on him early in the run, Jones can sustain enough of his cushion between them with his 4.56-speed for long gains.
A capable puncher who squares his frame well to the opponent, Jones throws good uppercuts against blitzing inside linebackers. While he won’t hold up against the likes of Lawrence Timmons just yet, his technique is a good start towards achieving that goal.
Also a willing cut blocker against linemen, Jones maintains effort throughout the course of the block,
rolling through the legs of large defenders when the initial shoot doesn’t yield the desired result. He can
improve the height of his cut blocks so the defender lacks time to push down on Jones’ back with his hands and mitigate the outcome.
One of the lesser-known strengths of Jones’ game is his receiving. He adjusts to the ball in the air with the skill of a wide receiver. He tracks the ball over his shoulder on the run and can turn and face the quarterback at the end of a vertical route to win the ball over coverage with a
Jones’ size, strength, balance, agility, acceleration, burst through his cuts and receiving skill remind me of Priest Holmes, another underrated product from a Texas program. A lot of things will have to go right for Jones to legitimize those comparisons beyond the style of play, but I’d be surprised if he isn’t drafted by the sixth round. I expect him to make a roster and impress the staff with his ability to contribute right away.
Pre-NFL Draft Fantasy Advice: I’d estimate Jones can be had in the fourth round of fantasy drafts in April and plus or minus one round in May. He’s a buy-low investment with a low-risk ADP.
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