Don’t Look Now, but Vikings Have a Surprise Top 10 Playmaker.

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Aaron Jones signed with the Minnesota Vikings on the second day of free agency’s “legal tampering” period this offseason, a transaction that fell out of the sky.

Don’t Look Now, but Vikings Have a Surprise Top 10 Playmaker.

Many believed the franchise would roll with Ty Chandler at RB1 or draft a rookie like Trey Benson, for example, but Minnesota’s front office put its foot down to fix the ground game once and for all with the Jones addition.

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And according to Pro Football Focus, the Vikings’ new playmaker is a Top 10 RB commodity in 2024. PFF ranked all halfbacks with the NFL season 100 days away, and Jones checked in at No. 8. PFF’s Thomas Valentine explained, “Jones has been one of the most underrated running backs in the NFL for some time now. In his final season with the Green Bay Packers, the former UTEP running back earned a 76.1 grade in an injury-plagued season, but when he was on the field, Jones rushed for 656 yards and two touchdowns at a clip of 4.6 yards per carry. The fact that that’s a career low for Jones is a testament to his efficiency.”

Jones was sandwiched between Breece Hall (No. 7, New York Jets) and Jahmyr Gibbs (No. 9, Detroit Lions). Christian McCaffrey (San Francisco 49ers), Derrick Henry (Baltimore Ravens), and Jonathan Taylor (Indianapolis Colts) headlined Valentine’s list. Because Jones was injured and somewhat quiet until the later portion of the 2023 season, some might be surprised by the PFF kudos and high ranking.

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) tosses the ball in the stands after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter of the wild card playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, January 14, 2024 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“Jones thrived at creating yards after contact, too. His 3.16 yards after contact per attempt number ranked 14th in the NFL, and he forced 26 missed tackles in just 11 games,” Valentine added about Jones at No. 8.

Minnesota saved $3.5 million by releasing Alexander Mattison in March, flipping that cash into Jones for a one-year experiment. Jones has played against Minnesota 11 times in his career, and now, with any luck, he’ll suit up for 17 games with his former foe, including two games versus the Packers. He’s tallied 847 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns as a Packer against the Vikings since joining the NFL in 2017 as a 5th-Round Pick.

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Minnesota has finished 27th per rushing DVOA in back-to-back seasons since Kevin O’Connell took over as head coach two years ago. The franchise desperately needs to fix its ground game or risk never fully unlocking the offense.

Jones banked 889 yards from scrimmage in 2023 while playing 11 games. He scored 3 touchdowns and turned on the gas down the stretch of 2023 once he became fully healthy. The ex-Packer will partner with the aforementioned Chandler for a decent RB1-RB2 duo next season and perhaps end the Vikings’ rushing woes.

January 10th, 2024. Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Kevin O’Connell and GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center concluding the 2023 NFL regular season. Minnesota finished 7-10 in 2023 and missed the postseason.

Jones was at the peak of his powers in 2019, tabulating 1,558 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns. He’s reached one Pro Bowl — the 2020 campaign.

Too, Jones’ pairing with the Vikings confused the Packers coaching staff. “It kind of caught me off guard, to be honest with you. There were some other things in play, obviously with Aaron Jones, and I didn’t quite know how everything was going to go. It just happened really fast on that Monday,” the Packers skipper told the Wisconsin State Journal in March.

Vikings fans will learn in about 14.5 weeks if Jones’s PFF ranking is correct. Minnesota starts the season on the road at the New York Giants.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by