Fantasy football is mostly about fun and hope, but it doesn’t come without an element of fear. Fears can range from draft mistakes to simply missing out on a sleeper. In dynasty leagues, those fears can be amplified since there are no do-overs. Once you draft your team, outside of trading, there are few opportunities to improve your team. The commitment made to a specific player feels like it is for keeps. And when El Cuco comes for that player, you better watch out.
When entering a start-up dynasty league, Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones seems like a great asset to target. If you’ve owned him in a long-standing league you’ve reaped the benefits of his success, especially in 2019 and 2020. He finished 2019 as the number two fantasy running back at only 25 years old. In 2020 he saw a regression in touchdowns from 19 in 2019 to just 11 this year, yet still finished as the RB5 on the season. He plays on a high-powered offense with one of the greatest quarterbacks any of us have ever seen. Selecting him feels like a safe pick with hope and upside tied to a positive situation. Things aren’t always what they seem.
In the 2020 draft, the Packers selected Boston College running back A.J. Dillon with the 62nd pick in the second round.
The move was viewed by many as a head-scratcher due to the recent success of the aforementioned Jones. While Jones was highly successful for head coach Matt Lafleur, he has few factors working against him. For starters, he is slated to become a free agent after this season ends. Recent trends lead you to deduce that the 26-year-old running back probably won’t be signed to a long term deal. The Packers have to decide whether to pay cornerback Kevin King, center Corey Linsley and defensive tackle Kenny Clark among others. The second factor is his size. Jones is listed at 5’9” and 210 pounds. Dillon is 6’0” 247 pounds with rare speed and agility for a man that size.
The third factor is the scheme. Lafleur favors a wide or outside run scheme that is tailor-made for Dillon’s rare skill set. Fear should begin to set in for the Jones owners. Taking Dillon in drafts or trading for him would be a great way to quell some of that fear but first, you should know which running backs he most closely resembles.
At first glance, A.J. Dillon appears to be a clone of Derrick Henry.
Henry is listed at 6’3” 247 pounds. Given that Henry and Lafleur had success in Tennessee, not only is that a fair comparison, it is a scary one. In Henry’s rookie season he spent time as the back-up to star running back Demarco Murray, who was two years removed from a rushing title. Eventually, Henry took over and became the league’s leading rusher in 2019 and 2020.
A similar scenario played out twenty years ago. The Baltimore Ravens had a 1,000 yard all-purpose back in University of Florida standout Errict Rhett. Rhett was listed at 5’11” and 210 pounds. His backup was a promising young running back; Priest Holmes, who was 5’9” 213 pounds. While both backs saw a measure of success, the Ravens weren’t satisfied and drafted a rookie out of Tennessee named Jamal Lewis. In his rookie season, Lewis ran for 1,364 yards and added another 296 yards on 27 catches. He went on to rush for over 1,000 yards in seven of the next nine seasons in which he played including a 2,066-yard campaign in 2003. At 5’11” and 240 pounds, Lewis is an ideal comp for Dillon both by physical metrics and by the situation.
A doppelganger is defined as a non-biological identical double. This identical double is the protagonist of many fairy tales and folklore. For eons, parents have used this to strike fear into children to make them behave. In every culture it has a different name. In old Irish, it is called a fetch. Other languages refer to it as an Etiene or a Kaa. Slavic nations know it as the Baba-Yaga. Jamaicans call him Jumbie and in the Mediterranean it is Babau. In the United States, we call it the Boogeyman. In Spanish cultures, dating back to the old world it is known as El Cuco.
The same way that Jamal Lewis took over in Baltimore, and Derrick Henry in Tennessee, A.J. Dillon will be El Cuco to the Jones owners. If we know anything about history, it is that it repeats itself. Whether or not Jones performs at a high level won’t matter. We caught a glimpse of El Cuco in week 16 when Dillon ran for 121 on 21 carries with two touchdowns. Once El Cuco decides to take over, there is nothing that can be done. In every culture the result is always the same, El Cuco wins.
“When we tell our children about El Cuco, we say; ‘if you misbehave, El Cuco will take you away and eat you’. What we should say is; it doesn’t matter either way, it takes what it wants.” – The Outsider