Is AJ Dillon A Fantasy Trap?
One of the most talked about running backs in fantasy today is 2nd year bruising back, AJ Dillon. With it looking like Aaron Jones will leave Green Bay for greener pastures, Dillon's stock is through the roof. The 2nd year back has a decent number of similarities to the 2019 and 2020 NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry.
Like Henry, Dillon weighed in at the NFL combine at 247 pounds. Also like Henry, he tested really well, putting up very similar, but slightly better scores in the 40-yard dash, vertical leap and broad jump. Like Henry, Dillon was drafted in the 2nd round, so he has great draft capital. He was also a mega producer in college rushing for more yards and only four less touchdowns than Henry. He has all the physical tools and college production needed to be successful. Plus he has those quads.
The one negative that he shares with Henry, and it's a BIG one, is his lack of receiving ability. The most receptions he recorded during any season at Boston College was 11. The only fantasy production he can provide will be in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. That is a HUGE red flag for any running back.
Aaron Jones has finished the past two seasons as the RB5 and RB2. Much of that production has come in the receiving game, something we can't count on with Dillon. I think it's fair to assume he will put up similar type receiving numbers as what we have seen from Henry based on their similar college production. Here's a fun experiment. If we were to take Aaron Jones production, but swap out his receiving numbers with Derrick Henry's from 2020, he goes from the RB5 to the RB15 in 2020, and the RB2 to the RB13 in 2021. Those are high-end RB2 numbers. For him to finish as an RB1, he's going to need to rush for at least 1,200 yards and 10+ touchdowns. That's a feat very few running backs have accomplished at his size over the past 10 seasons. The only two to do it are Henry in 2019 and 2020, and LeGarrett Blount, oddly also 247 pounds in 2016 when he rushed for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns. Now, before he ballooned to over 250 pounds, Eddie Lacy was a bigger back that finished as the RB7 and RB6 playing with Aaron Rodgers during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. During those seasons he was able to reel in 35 and 44 receptions. If Dillon can somehow put up receiving numbers similar to that, then I'm much more excited.
My final opinion on Dillon is that I think we are likely looking at a fringe RB1 going forward of Jones leaves. It's easy to look at the similarities between him and Henry and get excited, especially playing with Rodgers. The reality however, is that backs like Henry are rare specimens. You just don't see running backs putting up the kind of numbers Henry has put up over the past two seasons at that size with the lack of receiving numbers. In dynasty leagues, I always try to play to the percentages. I'm always looking to get a sure-fire RB1 who can provide more as a receiver, and I don't know if that's Dillon. He's not a player I'd be looking to just get rid of by any means, because he definitely has upside, but If I can sell him on hype for a more certain running back with receiving skills, that's a move I would try to make.