Washington RB Matt Jones isn’t a lock for a huge fantasy year

The second-year Washington running back comes into the season as the starter, but needs to improve, or he might not stay in the role.

| 4 months ago
(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Washington RB Matt Jones isn’t a lock for a huge fantasy year

(Editor’s note: Every day, we’re offering our Crazy Fantasy Stat of the Day, something that catches our eye and helps us learn something for fantasy for 2016.)

With former Washington running back Alfred Morris gone to Dallas as a free agent, conventional wisdom says Matt Jones will be the Redskins’ primary running back in 2016. After all, the only real competition on the roster comes from Chris Thompson, widely considered a guy whose value is tied up entirely in his ability as a receiver.

In 2015, Jones and Thompson both played 13 games. Jones had 144 carries; Thompson had 35. So that all stands to reason. The problem is that Jones had a challenging rookie season. He finished 37th among running backs in fantasy scoring, in between Baltimore’s Javorius Allen and Shane Vereen of the Giants. He finished 65th in PFF grading at the position out of 68 qualified running backs, with only four positively graded games all season, and his best game coming against the New Orleans Saints, which … well, everyone seemed to have their best game against the Saints last season.

That is part of our Fantasy Stat of the Day: In 2015, Matt Jones finished outside the top 48 among running backs in yards per carry, average yards after the catch and forced missed tackles per attempt. Thompson did better on the first two measures, and was barely behind Jones on the third. Basically, you have to look really hard to find reasons for optimism surrounding Jones, and most of those come from college, when he averaged 80.2 yards from scrimmage per game in his 2014 junior season at Florida, 74.3 of them on the ground. Well, in his senior season at Florida State in 2012, Thompson averaged 103.9 yards from scrimmage per game, 76.3 on the ground.

[Which running backs should you target in your drafts? Get round-by-round recommendations from the PFF experts in our new draft tool.]

Based on his professional career (38 carries in two active seasons, plus a largely ineffective 2013 rookie season where he was briefly the returner before getting benched and going to IR), Thompson isn’t much for running the ball, it’s true. But the exact same can be said of Jones, the presumptive bell cow for Washington.

Jones is currently the 23rd-ranked running back in our staff rankings, while Thompson is 54th. That Jones is higher makes sense; he is going to be the starter to start the season, and ultimately probably does have more potential. But he needs to improve on his 2015 to keep the team from giving a look to his pass-catching backup — or maybe even a recovering-from-injury free agent, if Arian Foster proves to be healthy and intriguing.

| Fantasy Editor

Daniel Kelley is the fantasy editor for Pro Football Focus. He has previously appeared at SB Nation.

  • HTTRer

    And when did anyone expect this?