While much remains unknown about exactly what the Green Bay Packers offense will look like in 2022, it’s reasonable to expect that third-year running back AJ Dillon will be a huge part of the game plan. Entering the season at the prime age of 24, Dillon has the right blend of youth, experience, skill, and situation to rack up some lofty statistics potentially.
Apex Fantasy Football broke down the best running back seasons since 2000 and found a couple of factors that line up nicely for Dillon, who is entering his third season in the league. Apex looked at running back seasons that tallied 250 PPR fantasy points, which doesn’t tell the whole football story but presents a good snapshot of a player’s specific impact in time.
- In these top seasons, 68% occur when the player’s age is between 23 and 26.
- The two most common ages are 24 and 25 years old.
- When you narrow the time parameter to after 2010, the average age of this group drops to 24.75.
There are some remarkable seasons on this list. If you’re a fantasy football player, these will stand out. Jamal Lewis‘ 2013 season, his fourth in the league, where he rushed for 2,066 yards on 387 carries and 14 touchdowns. Shaun Alexander‘s 2001 campaign where he ran for 1,318 yards on 308 carries. The 2019 season for Leonard Fournette, where he had 1,152 rushing yards and 522 receiving yards. And the second season for Deuce McAllister, who tallied 325 carries for 1,388 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The common denominator in all these seasons? They came in the player’s age-24 campaign. These four players also sit between 5’11” and 6’1” and range between 225 and 245 lbs. That’s relevant because it fits in nicely with Dillon’s bruising stature of 6’0″ and 247 lbs. Sure, there is some cherry-picking of statistics here, but these are all first-round picks that obviously had the skills to produce and the situation to facilitate it.
That last part will be key for Dillon: situation. The Packers will have a revamped approach under new offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich, but it still figures to be plenty competent with Aaron Rodgers under center. Davante Adams is gone, and with an offensive line coach promoted to OC, all signs point to run, baby, run.
Of course, Green Bay still has Aaron Jones in the mix, who has averaged just about 200 carries and 50 catches per season over the last three years. Jones is a leading candidate to fill the void left by Adams, as someone has to catch the 123 balls that Rodgers would have thrown the wideout’s way, which means that Jones will likely see fewer carries out of the backfield.
Stenavich will use both Jones and Dillon, but Dillon already saw more carries than Jones a season ago. Dillon increased his carries from 46 in his rookie year to 187 in his sophomore season. There’s no reason he couldn’t see closer to 250 carries in Year 3.
So what does that mean for his production? At his career average of 4.5 yards per carry, 250 carries for the season would mean 1,125 yards rushing. Regarding touchdowns, Dillon had only 45% of the team’s carries inside the red zone. He scored five rushing touchdowns, well off the pace of some of the league’s leading scorers like Jonathan Taylor (80%, 14 touchdowns) and Joe Mixon (67%, 11 touchdowns). The Packers are also without Adams, the most prolific red-zone receiver over the past few seasons, so the touchdown opportunities have to increase.
So what is realistic for Dillon in 2022? Look no further than Eddie Lacy in his age-24 season back in 2014. Lacy ran for 1,139 rushing yards on 246 carries and nine touchdowns, with 427 receiving yards on top of that. Those numbers are attainable based on conservative increases to Dillon’s workload across the board. Assuming he stays healthy, I think the floor for Dillon is 1,500 yards combined with rushing and receiving. With a few big games and home run plays, he could flirt with 1,800 total yards.
The precedent is there. The opportunity sure seems like it will be too. What remains to be seen is whether or not Dillon will be able to make the most of the opportunity, helping to cement Green Bay as a run-first offense and keep the Packers among the elite teams in the NFL.