Why can’t James Jones score more TDs this year?
A common refrain we’ve been hearing out of Green Bay is that James Jones won’t be able to catch 14 touchdowns again. He has to come back down to earth, because touchdowns are unsustainable and he’s never caught 14 before. The conclusion that he will catch fewer touchdowns this year is all but unchallenged in fantasy circles; the compromise that most are reaching is that he’s likely to see a modest uptick in receptions and yardage, but not enough to recover from all those touchdowns that he’s not going to catch this year.
I’m here to challenge that assumption. James Jones is an excellent bet to continue cashing in at the bank of Aaron Rodgers, and he can easily get to double-digits in touchdowns again. Let me tell you why:
Green Bay has had a double-digit touchdown wide receiver each of the last three years. Greg Jennings caught 12 in 2010, Jordy Nelson caught 15 in 2011 and James Jones hauled in 14 last year. With Aaron Rodgers playing the role of best QB alive, there are plenty of touchdown passes to go around in the Green Bay offense. If we assume that Aaron Rodgers throws around 40 touchdowns again this year, it’s more than reasonable to assume at least one receiver will be in the 12-15 touchdown range.
Touts credit James Jones’ breakout last year to the fact that Nelson and Jennings were hurt, so he was thrust into the spotlight. Well guess what? Jennings isn’t there anymore, and James Jones has almost no competition for the same role that afforded him so many red zone targets last year. The Packers are currently carrying five receivers on the roster: Cobb, Nelson, Jones, Jarrett Boykin and Jeremy Ross. Those last two are such deep sleepers that only one of them has been profiled by RotoViz. Jones will see a lot of snaps for one of the best offenses in football.
James Jones is an excellent red zone receiver
The man’s red zone resume is quite impressive. At 6’1” 208lbs, his size isn’t elite, but he’s big enough to be a very effective receiver near the goal line. According to his college career tracker, he posted a 45% red zone touchdown rate in his final season at San Jose State. That crazy good number compares favorably to other RotoViz favorites like Hakeem Nicks, Eric Decker, and yes, Jordy Nelson.
Why does that matter if he left college in 2006? Well, it means that maybe his 11 touchdowns on 19 red zone targets last year wasn’t such a fluke after all. It’s tough to get an effective sample size for red zone production, but Jones also caught 3 touchdowns on 5 red zone targets in 2011. Combining his last two years, he’s turned 24 red zone targets into 14 touchdowns. Is that significant? I think it is, and I also think that Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers are very, very aware of this.
James Jones is the best red zone option for a team that will score a lot of touchdowns this year. Will he duplicate his 7/1 target/touchdown ratio last year? That’s unlikely, but if you agree that he’ll see more targets, he won’t have to in order to outproduce his ADP. He’s currently being drafted as an early WR3 (WR27 in PPR and WR28 in standard). I like him there because you won’t need him to produce every single week, and he catches touchdowns in bunches (four multi-touchdown games last year), so he’s a great bet to win your matchup for you on one of those weeks where he goes bonkers. Someone in Green Bay is going to catch a lot of touchdown passes this year. Why wouldn’t it be James Jones?