Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur took the podium on Wednesday in Indianapolis at the NFL scouting combine. Alongside general manager Brian Gutekunst, the duo answered questions about the team’s future, their young receiver corps, Aaron Rodgers, and their backfield.
When asked about how he plans to utilize running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, Lafleur uttered four ugly words. “Running back by committee.”
Gutekunst voiced his concerns with Aaron Jones’ conditioning, but also said that he views Jones as a “difference maker.” Lafleur’s desire to use a committee is based on keeping both backs fresh all season and taking the pressure off Aaron Rodgers.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because fantasy owners dealt with this frustrating situation in 2018. Mike McCarthy baffled fantasy owners with his continued preference of Williams over Jones, even when every statistic pointed to Jones being the superior back. McCarthy continued to point to Williams’ ability to pass protect as the reason for his playing time.
Jones was suspended for the first two games of the 2018 season, allowing Williams to get two full games to state his case to remain the starter. Williams had a mini break-out in Weeks 11 through 13 of the 2017 season with Brett Hundley at quarterback. Unfortunately, in 2018, Williams would face two of the best defenses in football in the units of the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings.
Here were Williams’ numbers without Jones:
Week 1 vs. CHI: 15 ATT, 47 YDS, 3.13 YPC.
Week 2 vs. MIN: 16 ATT, 59 YDS, 3.69 YPC. 3 REC, 12 YDS.
Williams struggled in both matchups and showed traits of a player who can only gain what is blocked for him. Jones would return in week three vs Washington.
Week 3 @ WAS:
Williams (starter): 5 ATT, 29 YDS, 5.8 YPC. 2 REC, 12 YDS. 30 of 57 snaps (43%).
Jones: 6 ATT, 42 YDS, 7.0 YPC. 1 REC, 5 YDS. 17 of 57 snaps (25%).
Jones showed elusiveness and burst on to the scene immediately upon his return. Williams got the start and the majority of the snaps. Jones had a better yards-per-carry line and more total yards.
Week 4 vs. BUF:
Williams (starter): 11 ATT, 27 YDS, 2.45 YPC. 28 snaps (37%).
Jones: 11 ATT, 65 YDS, 5.91 YPC, 1 TD. 1 REC, 17 YDS. 29 snaps (38%).
Williams got the start again but was thoroughly outplayed by Jones. Jones only played in one more snap than Williams but finished with the same number of rushing attempts. Again, better yardage and yards-per-carry, plus a touchdown.
Week 5 @ DET:
Williams (starter): 6 ATT, 33 YDS, 5.50 YPC. 2 REC, 19 YDS. 33 snaps (41%).
Jones: 7 ATT, 40 YDS, 5.71 YPC. 2 REC, 19 YDS. 22 snaps (27%).
Coming off a great performance, Jones once again was used sparingly, appearing in 11 fewer snaps and showing a better production.
Jones Takes Over as Starter
Week 6. vs SF:
Williams: 6 ATT, 29 YDS, 4.83 YPC. 1 REC, 10 YDS. 27 snaps (38%).
Jones (starter): 8 ATT, 41 YDS, 5.13 YPC. 19 snaps (27%).
Jones gets the “start” but logs only 19 offensive snaps. Inexplicably, McCarthy continues to keep Jones off the field after his hot start.
Week 8 @ LAR:
Williams: 4 ATT, 9 YDS, 2.25 YPC, 1 TD. 13 snaps (25%).
Jones (starter): 12 ATT, 86 YDS, 7.17 YPC, 1 TD. 2 REC. 32 snaps (62%).
Jones and Williams each score coming off the bye. Jones’s touchdown run was much more electric as he scored from 33 yards out. Huge snap, touch, and yards-per-carry difference. The tide has finally turned towards Jones.
Week 9 @ NE:
Williams: 7 ATT, 34 YDS, 4.86 YPC. 2 REC, 20 YDS. 31 snaps (42%).
Jones (starter): 14 ATT, 75 YDS, 5.36 YPC. Fumble lost. 2 REC, 10 YDS. 43 snaps (58%).
Jones loses a critical fumble in the fourth quarter of a tie game. Williams replaced Jones for the next drive which is why the snap counts are close. Jones still outperformed Williams.
Weeks 10 through 14:
Jones: 71 ATT, 371 YDS, 5.23 YPC, 6 TD. 18 REC, 155 YDS, 1 TD.
Williams: 16 ATT, 43 YDS, 2.69 YPC. 4 REC, 14 YDS.
Jones finally is set free as the lead back and shows why fans clamored for more playing time. Jones faced the same Vikings defense that Williams did in Week 2 and performed considerably better, racking up 17 carries and 72 yards, as well as a touchdown. He also hauled in three passes for a total of 21 yards.
Jones was lost in Week 15 with a season-ending MCL injury. Williams took over and finished with 12 carries, 55 yards, and a touchdown while hauling in four passes for 42 yards.
Williams would finish the season as the Packers’ lead back.
Week 16 @ NYJ: 15 ATT, 95 YDS, 6.33 YPC, TD. 6 REC (9 targets), 61 YDS.
Week 17 vs.DET: 8 ATT, 4 YDS. 3 REC, 16 YDS.
In week 16, Williams faced a depleted Jets defense and played in a game with five quarters due to overtime.
Jones performed better than Williams according to almost every metric. Jones was graded 81.3 by Pro Football Focus, which was good for the 12th best runningback, and the best running back in the NFC North.
Williams finished with a grade of 68.5, which slotted him at No. 40 on PFF’s list.
In addition, the myth that Williams is a better pass blocker is wrong. Jones also led the NFL in yards-per-carry.
Here are their final season stats:
Aaron Jones: 133 ATT, 728 YDS, 5.47 YPC, 8 TDs. 26 REC (35 targets), 206 YDS, TD. 12 games.
Jamaal Williams: 121 ATT, 464 YDS, 3.83 YPC, 3 TDs. 27 REC (41 targets), 210 YDS. 16 games.
Committees make plenty of sense for actual football but are torture for fantasy football.
Here we go again in 2019.