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Leonard Fournette to Buccaneers: Fantasy Fallout

It seems a now-rich team has just gotten richer this offseason. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team nobody had thought twice of before March, now have added former Jaguars RB and first-round pick Leonard Fournette to their offense on a one-year deal after getting QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski this offseason.

The Bucs had a reason to sign a running back, as they have still unproven back Ronald Jones II and rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn as their top backs, along with veteran LeSean McCoy. However, in his short time in the NFL and with Jacksonville, Fournette has proved to be a true workhorse back, and this is something the Bucs could use with an aging Tom Brady.

It seems Fournette won’t have to travel far from where his old squad played. Now on the Bucs, it’s fair to assume the former Jags RB should be in contention for the RB1 spot alongside Ronald Jones, who coach Bruce Arians said would be the lead back before Fournette signed. How does the addition of the new back affect the Bucs RBs unit? Let’s find out:

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


2019 Recap

Fournette was taken fourth overall by the Jags in the 2017 draft and played three seasons for them. He played decently last season after a bad 2018 season in which he only played eight games. The 25-year-old recorded 265 carries, 1,152 rush yards, three rush touchdowns, 4.3 rush yards per attempt, 76.8 rush yards per game, 100 targets, 76 receptions, and 522 receiving yards through 15 games in 2019. He also had 3.0 rush yards after contact per rush.

Notably, the back recorded career-highs in rush yards, rush yards per attempt, targets, receptions, and receiving yards. He also finished 13th among fantasy backs. Among NFL RBs, he ranked seventh in rush attempts, sixth in rush yards, tenth in rush yards per game, eighth in rush attempts per game (17.67), fifth in receptions, and fifth in receiving yards.

Despite the Jags simply releasing him, Fournette had a productive 2019 season in which he provided serviceable numbers and ranks. He is certainly an underrated addition to the Bucs given the money for which he signed and the fact that nobody else claimed or traded for him.


2020 Fantasy Outlook

As of this writing, we can only speculate what type of role Fournette will have on the Bucs. However, given he was a workhorse back on the Jags, it’s fair to assume he will be vying for that role with his new squad. His primary competition for the RB1 spot will be Ronald Jones II.

For his part, Jones had a much better sophomore season in 2019 than he did rookie year in 2018. The USC product notched 172 rush attempts, 724 rush yards, 4.2 rush yards per attempt, six rush touchdowns, 31 receptions, 40 targets, and 309 receiving yards in 16 games last season. He also had 2.4 rush yards after contact per rush. Jones ranked 27th among fantasy RBs last season. One thing to note is that he didn’t rank any better than 20th in any major rushing or receiving category among NFL RBs.

Jones and Fournette will affect each other’s fantasy values the most as the season progresses. Rookie Ke’ Shawn Vaughn could only be a kick returner to start the season based on what Arians said earlier. Therefore, the rookie will not be a huge threat to Fournette or Jones.

In addition, veteran LeSean McCoy is now 32 years old and not a reliable RB1. He is coming off a major down-year with the Chiefs last season in which he had a career-low 101 rush attempts and 465 rush yards He also had 28 receptions (tied career-low), 181 receiving yards, four rush touchdowns, and one receiving touchdown. Both Vaughn and McCoy are now irrelevant for fantasy purposes. Dare Ogunbowale may stick as a pass-catcher and occasional third-down back but doesn't have fantasy relevance either.

The Bucs’ coach may opt to give Jones the bulk of carries at the beginning of the season since he has been practicing with the team during training camp as opposed to Fournette. After all, Fournette doesn't even have a new jersey number yet, seeing as how his 27 is Ronald Jones' number.

However, the Bucs signed Fournette for a reason, and it’s likely he will get some carries at the beginning of the season with room for that number to go up as the season progresses. Because Jones and Fournette are both supposed to be lead backs, it's a possibility Arians could use the hot-hand approach as the season continues. It was a fairly even two-man committee last year in Tampa, so it's not out of the question that something similar could also unfold if one doesn't separate himself from the other.

For fantasy drafts, consider both Fournette and Jones as potential RB2s, as there is a chance each player’s value could alter as the season progresses and a potential clear-cut RB1 emerges on the team.

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