A Fantasy Bounce Back
A.J. Dillon‘s fantasy output was not what drafters were expecting in 2022. He was a beloved back during the 2022 offseason, touted as a potential breakout, but failed to hit on expectations. Dillon is a prime candidate for a rebound in 2023, however. Still only 24 years old, he has seen his target share grow in each of this first three seasons. This is despite sharing a backfield with pass-catching monster Aaron Jones.
Dillon tied his career high with seven TDs in 2022, and enters his contract year with the Packers. In the aftermath of the Aaron Rodgers trade, Green Bay are in transition and need a new identity. At nearly 250 pounds, Dillon has 40 pounds on his counterpart Jones, and is four years younger. The team is going to be utilizing two rookie tight ends in the passing game, and veteran wideout Allen Lazard departed in the offseason. The Packers’ organization will look to Dillon to prove himself a valuable future asset as they navigate a transitional phase without Rodgers.
Looking at Dillon’s player profile page, it is hard not to make a direct comparison to Derrick Henry. Per PlayerProfiler Advanced Stats & Metrics, Dillon has a 135.2 (98th-percentile) Burst Score and a 117.3 (98th-percentile) Speed Score. Despite the apparent similarities, Dillon’s athleticism marks are better than those of Henry, your leaguemate’s favorite big man.
Dillon enters his 4th season in the NFL in 2023, and he’s a better pass catcher than Henry. In 2021 – his second year in the league – Dillon secured an impressive 91.9-percent Catch Rate on 37 targets. That is a feat never accomplished by Henry. Then from 2021 to 2022, Dillon’s Target Share increased from 6.5- to 8-percent. His pass-catching prowess will be relied on heavily by a developing QB in Jordan Love.
Is This A Re-run?
After three years in the league, Derrick Henry had one game with over 20 carries. In his 4th year in the league (2019) – at age 25 – Henry had seven games over 20 carries, and became an elite weekly fantasy option beloved by league champions everywhere. Dillon’s rookie year (2020), he had one week with more than 20 carries and was a top-six fantasy RB with 25.9 fantasy points. In 2021, Dillon had two games with 20-plus carries: Week 10 vs. the Seahawks and Week 12 vs. the Rams. He was a top-10 fantasy RB in both weeks, with 26.8- (top-three) and 20-fantasy point outings.
Is it possible that the Packers, aware of incoming QB growing pains, might preserve their secret-stud RB to unleash after Rodgers’ departure?
Touch distribution is challenging to predict year-to-year. Based on his track record and team necessity, however, Dillon is ready to produce at an elite level. Opportunity is the only barrier. Dillon’s ADP is 101.3, according to FFPC. He is an high-reward, zero-risk draft pick for the 2023 season – in all formats. Consider this your final buying opportunity, and welcome to year four.
A Deal on Dillon
According to the FFPC, Dillon is routinely being drafted in the 10th round, in the same range as Elijah Mitchell, Rashaad Penny, Damien Harris, and Brian Robinson. While each of those players has had flashes of relevancy in fantasy as RB2 spot-starters, they are sharing backfields with more talented players. Dillon is the best of the bunch.
Alvin Kamara is another RB routinely being selected in the 9th round, ahead of Dillon. Kamara will be 28 when the 2023 season begins with 1228 career touches in the NFL. Dillon – at age 25 – has accumulated just 435 NFL touches. Despite Kamara being a decent-sized back, Dillon dwarfs him by 35 pounds. Kamara is entering the twilight of his career. Dillon is entering his prime.
The WRs in the 10th round of drafts do not spark much joy, either, Jahan Dotson, Gabe Davis, and Courtland Sutton are sub-optimal weekly starters on teams that feature superior WR1s. After Rachaad White, Cam Akers, and D’Andre Swift are drafted, Dillon should be next in your queue. He is going nearly two rounds later.
Dillon vs. Gibson
Antonio Gibson, like Dillon, is the only other RB in this area of drafts entering a contract year, and with a mouthwatering profile. While the decision between Gibson and Dillon appears to be a coin flip, it shouldn’t be. The Commanders have a significantly more difficult strength of schedule at sixth overall in the NFL, per Sharp Football Analysis. Gibson was also hamstrung by an inexplicable coaching preference for Brian Robinson last season.
The Packers begin the 2023 season with matchups that favor their run game and will allow Jordan Love to acclimate to the NFL. The Packers face off against the Bears, Falcons, Saints, Lions, and Raiders in the first five weeks of 2023. It’s an optimal runway for Dillon to achieve liftoff as the established 1A back for the Packers, entering the heart of the season.
What sets Dillon apart from other players in the range where he is being drafted is a combination of green flags (pun intended). He is multiple years ahead of the Age Apex and entering his contract year. Dillon is also insulated from free agent signings with Aaron Jones already in the backfield. He is a low-mileage back with exceptional size-adjusted athleticism, built like a bulldozer and with exceptional receiving capability. Dillon has shown himself to be an elite RB1 producer in every high-volume opportunity granted. He has a ceiling of untapped potential. The RB dead-zone has a diamond in it every year, and that diamond in 2023 is A.J. Dillon. Draft him aggressively 15-20 spots ahead of ADP and win your league.