The news out of Washington has been ridiculously good for Matt Jones for months. Everything, and I mean everything, is coming up Millhouse.
- March 26: Alfred Morris leaves via free agency clearing the way for the starting gig.
- April 30: Washington takes no RBs in their first six picks, instead waiting until the late seventh to take a flier on the walking soft tissue injury that is Keith Marshall.
- May 5: Washington OC Sean McVay says of Jones, “he’s got the skills and traits you’re looking for in that every-down back.”
- May 13: Washington reports they would like Jones to improve his pass protection. You could be forgiven for assuming this is so he can remain on the field on plays in which the Redskins are passing the ball.
- May 16: GM Scot McCloughan, after looking sideways at his RB depth chart and pulling a face like someone farted, declares that he has zero concerns about Jones’ ball security or ability to stay healthy.
It certainly appears Jones will get every opportunity to be Washington’s feature 3 down running back. Does he have the talent to do anything with it?
The Book On Matt Jones
At a fungible position like RB, where the ball carrier’s innate talent has very little impact on any given play, does it even matter? Even if you don’t agree with my premise, Jones doesn’t lack for athletic talent. Despite being a big back, he’s one of the most agile runners in the league. He is also plenty fast for his size, running a 4.61 40 at 231 pounds.
Now throw in the fact that Washington is one of the more projectable offenses in the league due to the return of both their quarterback and play callers from last season. You can safely figure on a standard total offensive output of 450 carries and 100 RB targets. That should be a large enough pie for an every-down RB to carve out 80 all-purpose yards per game. Jones’ hands certainly appear adequate; he already has one 131 yard receiving game on his resume. Finally factor in that Washington has shown the confidence to use him in the red zone, giving him 27 of 66 1 RZ carries on otherwise limited touches, and now you’re cooking with grease.
And yet his ADP is dropping. I think it’s probably no coincidence that a lot of industry writers are drafting their FML 10s of Death coincident with the dip.
According to the indispensable RotoViz Best Ball app, Matt Jones is the 21st back coming off the board. This is at least defensible, I guess. Yet the RotoViz composite rankings have him ranked at – wait let me make sure this is right. Ah, yes. 34. In a league of 32 professional football teams. This seems to me slightly less defensible.
They Hate These Cans!
Sharps hate Matt Jones with a burning fire usually reserved for clowns and Jennifer Garner movies, and I think I know why. Pick an efficiency metric. Any efficiency metric. It too will hate Matt Jones.
His yards per carry, 3.4, is a dog’s breakfast. According to the Fantasy Efficiency App, Jones’ rushing fantasy points over expectation was a meager 1.36. His net expected points, if you’re into that kind of thing, was -10.29.
It is true that in 2015 Jones was very inefficient. And it is also true that this concerns me precisely as much as Keith Marshall, who naturally just tweaked a hammy in camp, should concern Matt Jones.
Efficiency metrics are absolute basura in terms of predicting what will happen in the future. Yards per carry takes 10 years to stabilize to the point where we can say with confidence that just half of it is attributable to running back skill instead of luck. Advanced efficiency metrics like NEP and Expected Points Added are nearly as bad since they correlate heavily with YPC (and TDs), which themselves lack predictiveness. Even when you control for running back age, the year over year correlations lack any real predictive power.
EPA is supposed to be a measure of how much a RB helps a team win on the field – something that a coaching staff should be acutely sensitive too – so it’s especially damning that EPA is negatively correlated with volume the following year.
It’s almost cliché to say that volume drives fantasy production. But Matt Jones is going to have every opportunity next season to get as much volume as he can handle, so maybe it bears repeating.
Personally I ignore efficiency metrics almost completely. The funny thing is that your brother-in-law does too. You know, the guy that has never opened a spreadsheet in his life. The one that pops the collar on his pink polo at family BBQs and regurgitates camp narratives for every team over watery coleslaw. He’s the one that’s going to draft Matt Jones in your dynasty leagues and MFL 10s. And he’s probably going to win.
- A 40 percent market share. (back)