The RB2 in Sean Payton’s offense is typically a conveyed position among the fantasy community. From Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, or Latavius Murray, it’s usually a good bet to take a late-round flier on the Saints’ backup. After failing to take a pay cut, the Saints cut Murray on Tuesday afternoon, clearing the way for UDFA RB Tony Jones Jr. to be next in line behind Kamara.
Tony Jones Jr. ran with such great vision and patience during the preseason. The release of Murray isn't altogether a shock. Jones was pressing him for that job.
— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) September 7, 2021
Jones Jr. caught Payton’s eye during training camp and was one of the team’s major bright spots throughout the preseason. The Notre Dame product ran for a total of 106 yards on 12 carries in the team’s two preseason games.
It was clear Payton’s patience with Murray was running thin. He praised Jones Jr. prior to the Saints’ Monday Night Football affair when he labeled the young back as the No. 2 RB over Murray after utilizing him with the first-team offense.
Murray, who’s coming off a very successful season, carried the ball 146 times to the tune of 656 yards and four touchdowns last season. He also added 23 receptions on 26 targets. Even as the backup, Murray still averaged over nine carries in games where he did not start. That’s 169 available touches for those counting at home.
Jones Jr. was a solid, dependable running back at Notre Dame. He broke out in his final season as the team’s top dog when he recorded 857 yards and six touchdowns on 144 carries. He also did not fumble once on 298 career collegiate touches.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein had this to say about Jones Jr. during the 2019 draft season:
Single-season starter with good size, but lacking functional foot quickness and play speed to become a competitive NFL runner. Jones has decent vision and feel for the blocking scheme, but he needs to put away any finesse tendencies and buy in fully to becoming a hammer-head in order to give himself the best shot. He lacks creativity and athleticism to avoid NFL swarms when he slows his feet, so finding a downhill attack will also be essential. Ultimately, proving himself in blitz protection and on special teams may be essential to finding an NFL fit.
This preseason was the first time Jones saw legitimate game action since his days in South Bend after he spent the 2020 season on the Saints’ practice squad. Jones impressed during camp last season but COVID-19 restrictions hurt his chance to make a preseason impact.
Now secure as Kamara’s backup, Tony Jones Jr. is a certified penny stock steal.
Sprint to go get Tony Jones Jr w/ Latavius Murray released
No-brainer cuts for me included Wayne Gallman in one, Tevin Coleman in another. Tougher cut was Terrace Marshall on a team he was my WR8 & I only had 4 RBs (2 useful ones)
— Wolf of Roto Street (@RotoStreetWolf) September 7, 2021
Tony Jones Jr. rocketed up The Wolf’s 2021 Fantasy Rankings to RB48 (+32 vs ECR).