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2020 Fantasy Football Sleeper: Ronald Jones

Ronald Jones II has caused fantasy football players more problems over his short career than a malfunctioning stat service.

Jones’ rookie campaign was a nightmare Freddy Krueger would have been proud of. He only suited up for nine games due to various problems ranging from injury to just flat out not being prepared to play in the NFL, and when he did get on the field he averaged an embarrassing 1.9 yards per carry and was not even able to muster a 10-yard run on any of his 23 carries. If he was not drafted in the second round of the draft, Jones probably would have been cut by most NFL teams.

Jones took his helmet out of his keister and rebounded in his sophomore season, though. He showed explosiveness and pass-catching ability while outplaying veteran plodder Peyton Barber as the pair split the workload in the backfield. Jones rushed for 724 yards and six scores while adding 31 receptions for 309 yards. Even better, he did not miss a game and improved in every facet as the season went on, which made the Buccaneers brass confident he could be their top tailback heading into the 2020 campaign.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

 

Some Fantasy Players Will Pass on Jones Because...

A man named Tom Brady has taken his talents to Tampa Bay. So has his favorite unretired tight end, Rob Gronkowski. This dynamic duo has been amazing for offenses and fantasy players over the years, but they have not always been a boon for the fantasy values of the running backs on their squads. New England only had two 1,000-yard rushers during the last eight years Brady and Gronkowski were together between 2011 and 2018, and those backs topped the plateau largely because Gronk missed significant time due to injuries in both of those seasons.

Couple this with the fact that Tampa Bay already has arguably the top tandem at wide receiver in the NFL (Mike Evans and Chris Godwin) and another top-notch tight end in O.J. Howard and fantasy players have every right to wonder how many touches Jones will be able to garner.

Let me shoot holes through these theories like I am Buffalo Bill. First off, it was normally a running-back-by-committee situation during those Brady-Gronk New England years. On the early downs the Pats trotted out grinders like LeGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Sony Michel, and on passing downs versatile backs such as Danny Woodhead, Dion Lewis and James White would take over. Because the Pats never had a dynamic do-it-all workhorse back, that is why they did not have a ton of 1,000-yard rushers during the time Brady and Gronkowski, not because the pair kept the ball away from their runners.

Meanwhile, the talent behind Jones on the depth chart is thinner than a linguini noodle. Barber is now with the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins, and all that is left on the running back bench is third-round rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn (great name) and third-down specialist/special teamer Dare Ogunbowale. While Vaughn is a real threat to Jones, he is a between-the-tackles runner who would give defenses a different look when the shifty Jones is not on the field. Vaughn will also be a rookie trying to learn an intricate offense while Brady and head coach Bruce Arians are yelling at him all the time. While Jones might not be a lock to be Tampa’s top tailback, neither is Vaughn.

When it comes to touches, Jones should get 12-20 per game, especially now that he has elevated his receiving skills. Jones has a better shot at playing on all downs than Vaughn, who only caught 66 passes in four collegiate seasons. If you think Jones will be subbed out for Vaughn when the Bucs get close to the end zone, remember that Jones scored six rushing touchdowns last year and reportedly added some muscle this offseason. While Jones has breakaway speed and is a home run threat, he has a nose for the end zone and now has extra bulk to power his way across the goal line in tight spots.

 

Time For a Breakout in 2020

Jones is in one of the most enviable positions for a running back entering the 2020 NFL season. He is surrounded by Hall of Fame and Pro Bowl-caliber talent at the skilled positions and has an above-average offensive line (ranked 13th by Pro Football Focus) blocking for him. He also has an unproven rookie as his top competition for his starting spot in the backfield. With all of Tampa Bay’s offensive firepower, Jones will be set up perfectly to pile up fantasy points. Even if Arians has a pass-first offense, he is going to call his running back's number enough to make him a fantastic fantasy play.

All Jones has to do is not pull a Mark Sanchez and fumble this golden opportunity. If Jones can stay on the straight and narrow with Brady and the coaching staff and smooth out the sloppy parts of his game (pass blocking), there is no reason he cannot be a super sleeper in fantasy football and rack up 1,000 rushing yards, 350 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns in 2020.

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