Looks Like One Viking Is a Borderline Top 10 Player

Aaron Jones signs a ball for a fan at the third annual A&A All the Way Softball Charity Game at the Southwest University Park in El Paso, TX, on Thursday, June 27, 2024.

The Minnesota Vikings have a talented offense with some premier players at their positions. First and foremost, Justin Jefferson is arguably the best wide receiver in the league. Blocker Christian Darrisaw has played two seasons at an elite level, although he has been snubbed from Pro Bowl and All-Pro consideration both times.

Looks Like One Viking Is a Borderline Top 10 Player

Tight end T.J. Hockenson signed a humongous deal last offseason, but his impact on the offense certainly justifies that salary. Jordan Addison is coming off a wonderful rookie season, and Brian O’Neill has been Mr. Reliable on Minnesota’s offensive line for years.

One missing element, however, is the running game. The Vikings featured a dreadful rushing attack in 2023, and the 2022 version didn’t quite light it up either.

Looks Like One Viking Is a Borderline Top 10 Player
Dec 31, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jayden Reed (11) celebrates his touchdown with running back Aaron Jones (33) against the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

For that reason, the front office swapped Alexander Mattison in the offseason for former Packers runner Aaron Jones. He has the talent to revive the running game, although injuries slowed him down last season, and he isn’t getting any younger. However, people in the NFL believe that he is still a darn good football player, ranking him right outside the top ten running backs.

ESPN provided the running back rankings after asking NFL personnel: “ESPN surveyed league executives, coaches, and scouts to help us rank the top 10 players at 11 different positions, from quarterback to cornerback and all positions in between.”

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Oct 29, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) tackles Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) during their football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Wm. Glasheen-USA TODAY Sports

Jones failed to crack the top ten, but he is an honorable mention and evidently would’ve been the 11th listed player:

Jones finished the 2023 season with five consecutive 100-yard games through the regular season and playoffs. He lost a tight battle with Etienne for the 10th spot. “Green Bay’s offense was completely different when he was healthy,” an NFC defensive coach said. “He’s a difference-maker.”

Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

The 29-year-old signed a one-year contract and will make $7 million. He was part of Dalvin Cook’s draft class in 2017, a loaded running back group that featured some of the league’s best runners in the following seasons.

After a couple of seasons of splitting touches with fellow 2017 rookie Jamaal Williams, it slowly became the Aaron Jones Show in Green Bay, and he suddenly became a crucial part of the offense.

January 20, 2024; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) celebrates after a two-point conversion against the San Francisco 49ers during the third quarter in a 2024 NFC divisional round game at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Jones produced only 656 rushing yards and one rushing score in the regular season. However, he eclipsed 100 rushing yards in each of his final five games, including two postseason contests. A knee and a hamstring injury cost him six games, and the Packers managed his snap count in some others.

Green Bay’s offense surely looked a lot better with the 2020 Pro Bowler in the lineup. Through seven seasons and 97 games (85 starts), Jones tabulated 5,940 rushing yards and 45 touchdowns while adding 2,076 receiving yards and 18 scores through the air, showing that he is a dual threat out of the backfield.

Jones might slowly lose some of his explosiveness, but he looked fantastic down the stretch last season. Injuries continue to be a problem, but he should be a dramatic upgrade over Mattison when he is on the field. Third-year player Ty Chandler will take some load off his shoulders. At age 29, Jones is an older running back, but Minnesota’s risk is quite low considering that he is scheduled to be a free agent next year.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Minnesota Vikings
Sep 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell takes the field before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

After two seasons of a one-dimensional pass-heavy offense, 2024 could be different with a mix of Sam Darnold and J.J. McCarthy under center. Having a functioning running game is crucial, and Jones is a big part of that.

After spending his entire career with the Packers, he surely has September 29 circled in his calendar when the Vikings host their green rivals.

Editor’s Note: Information from Over the Cap and Pro Football Reference helped with this article.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and prefers Classic rock over other genres. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt