To begin the 2016 season, the Packers organization featured a very deep roster which resulted in some tough decisions when forming the final 53 man roster. The front office decided to keep 7 wide receivers because of all the talent at that position, but failed to bolster the running back position properly. The running back position featured just lead back Eddie Lacy and backup James Starks after Jhurell Pressley was cut before the first regular season game.
When injury struck both Lacy and Starks, the team did not have much to choose from at running back. Don Jackson was promoted to the active roster, but he had injury issues of his own and wasn’t a long term fix. The team later found a dynamic threat in moving Ty Montgomery to the running back position. Montgomery would go on to serve as the Packer’s starter for the remainder of the 2016, and was named the starter to begin this upcoming season. What once seemed like a horrible situation at running back, didn’t prove to be all that bad. One thing is for certain however, the situation the front office put themselves in could have played out a whole lot worse.
The team vowed to not allow a situation like that happen again, and they stuck true to their word. The Packers drafted 3 running backs on day 3 of the 2017 NFL Draft. With Ty Montgomery presumably holding down the starting position, the group of rookies (Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, and Devante Mays) will battle it out to make the roster and get playing time. This post will focus on 5th round pick Aaron Jones’ abilities on the field, and how he will fit in the offense…
Aaron and his twin brother Alvin went to high school in El Paso, after moving around as children because both of their parents were in the military. Both later went on to play football at UTEP. Alvin led the Miners in tackles each of the last two seasons, while his brother led the team in rushing. Aaron Jones is the most decorated rusher that the fans of the University of Texas at El Paso have ever seen. Jones ran for a school record of over 4000 yards in what amounted to only 3 full seasons at UTEP. In his fourth and final season, Jones rushed for 1773 yards (4th in FBS) and 17 rushing touchdowns.
His nearly 1800 yards put him in the record books again at UTEP for most single season rushing yards and earned him All-C USA honors. Rather than becoming a fifth year senior, Jones decided to declare for the draft with the support of his brother Alvin who continues to play for the Miners.
Aaron Jone’s athletic ability is by far the most exciting aspect of his game if you’re a Packer fan. Standing at 5’9″ 208Lbs, he is a bit undersized, but functional. Jones impressed at the combine posting a 4.56 40 time, 16 reps on bench press, 37.5 inch vertical, 127 inch broad jump, 6.82 3 cone time, 4.2 second 20 yard shuttle and a 11.53 second. 60 yard shuttle. He was a top performer at running back in 5 of the 7 tests he participated in at the scouting combine including: vertical jump(2nd), broad jump(3nd), 3 cone drill(2nd), 20 yard shuttle(3rd), and 60 yard shuttle(3rd). He plays faster than his 40 time suggests in my opinion. His athleticism isn’t going to hold him back at the next level, especially laterally.
Jones has the ability to break off long runs, with 8 40+ yard runs last season. His vision is excellent, he makes the most out of what his lineman give him. When he gets into the open field, watch out. He uses his agility well to make defenders miss and make long runs. Effort runner, never gives up on a play. Outstanding as a receiver out of the shotgun. More powerful of a runner than his size would suggest. Solid pass protector. Great character guy with good family values.
Faces a big jump in competition from Conference USA to the NFL, but did play well against bigger schools. Undersized by NFL standards. Having touched the ball 700 times in college and missing one full season, there could be some health concerns in his future. More quick than fast.
At first, I was skeptical of this pick, when there was buzz floating around that Jones was expected to go undrafted. Personally, I think it is somewhat laughable to think that Jones could have gone undrafted. The more I studied Aaron Jones, the more I began to love the pick. He will be out to prove a lot of people wrong this season. This pick makes a lot of sense with Green Bay having only 2 other running backs on the roster. Jones is a great fit in the Packers offense because of his ability as a receiver and blocker out of the shotgun.
I think Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller said it best; “If there is a Day 3 sleeper in this class who can develop into a starter, it’s Jones.” We see late round running back turn into starters every single year, and Jones very well could be that guy. The small knock I have on this pick is that it is kind of a boom or bust. I think Aaron Jones has a lot of learning to do, but he has the athletic abilities and work ethic to push through.
How He Fits in Green Bay
I fully expect Aaron Jones to make the 53 man roster at the beginning of the season. He is as prime of a candidate for a day 3 running back gem as I’ve seen in this draft class. Despite Jamaal Williams going one full round ahead of Jones, I’m not so sure Williams will win the second spot on the depth chart. If he does have a huge rookie season, it will start in the preseason, and probably build to where he is noticeably better at the end of the season and into the playoffs. Do not be surprised if he carves out a role as a special teamer, potentially returning kicks and punts.
Have thoughts on Aaron Jones? Let us know in the comments section or tweet at us @PTTF_Podcast. You can also tweet at me directly @TrackOnPack. Thanks for reading!