On Wednesday the Buccaneers made a bold move, and broke some fantasy owners hearts, signing Leonard Fournette to a one-year contract. Fournette, who was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday, heads into his fourth professional season on a loaded squad but also among a crowded running back room.
The Buccaneers entered this season with Ronald Jones II on the roster, a running back entering his third season after being drafted by the Buccaneers in 2018. During the draft, the team added Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third round. Then the Buccaneers signed veteran LeSean McCoy, and still have pass-catcher Dare Ogunbowale. And now they add Fournette.
With many leagues having already drafted, and many more drafting this weekend, it presents plenty of questions about the roles on the field. Especially after coach Bruce Arians seemed to express confidence in Jones right before the team moved to sign Fournette. Let’s weigh the options.
Plenty of Promise
Fournette has been in the league for three seasons and was a top pick for the Jaguars based on his talent and performance at LSU. And he arguably had his best season in 2019, rushing for 1,152 yards and catching 76 passes for 522 yards. That was good enough to make him RB7 in PPR, even with only three TDs. In a better offense with a more robust passing offense, those TD numbers could go up. You don’t make a move to grab Fournette without planning to use him.
So, what about the rest of the crew? Jones was a trendy sleeper pick among running backs early in the off-season. After a rookie year that was a bust, Jones looked better in 2019. He rushed for 724 yards and six TDs, catching 31 passes for 309 yards while splitting time with now-departed Peyton Barber and Ogunbowale. Jones seemed to have done the right things this off-season, and appeared on track to lead the rushing attack. With Fournette added to the room, that suggests a split at best.
Then there’s the other three. McCoy is aging and was a healthy scratch in the playoffs for the Chiefs in 2019. Vaughn seemed like he’d have a great path to touches, causing him to vault up the rookie draft boards. And Ogunbowale is a player some thought could fill a James White-like niche for Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. That’s five possible contributors, with the strong likelihood the Buccaneers won’t keep them all on the roster.
The bummer for those that already drafted is both Fournette and Jones were taken in a place where drafters figure to need to lean on them. Fournette has a current ADP of RB22 in PPR and RB18 in Standard, while Jones is currently at RB31 in PPR or RB30 in Standard. So the question is what do you think Fournette’s role will be?
Fournette is the most talented back on the roster, and I think he’ll get the most carries. But Jones is still there, has had a full camp and a full year in the system. Realistically, that lowers the ceiling for both. Some have projected Fournette as a Top 5 or Top 10 back, but I have him more in the lower RB2 range. Jones is more of a low-end RB3 or RB4 now.
Among the rest, I wouldn’t bank on any of them for the 2020 season. Vaughn is still a decent dynasty prospect who will likely return kicks in 2020. Ogunbowale could be part of the passing game, but likely won’t reach the RB2 heights of a player like White. And McCoy seems like the kind of player that will be a roster casualty come this weekend.
In terms of drafts, Fournette should be able to come closer to matching his current ADP while I would fade Jones at RB31. As always, this remains a fluid situation, so best of luck.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.