Days after the Jacksonville Jaguars released running back Leonard Fournette, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took a shot on the fourth-year pro with a one-year contract worth up to $3.5 million.
Fantasy football owners will be frustrated if they had selected running back Ronald Jones in recent weeks. Even after the Bucs drafted Ke’Shawn Vaughn and signing LeSean McCoy, Jones had earned the dreaded vote of confidence by head coach Bruce Arians.
Since, Vaughn was relegated to special teams duty, and McCoy appeared in line to claim the third-down work, but now it’s likely Jones who’ll be asked to spell Fournette. After Fournette snagged 76 balls last season, it’s tough to even say Jones will be guaranteed a third-down job.
Days ahead of the busiest fantasy football draft weekend of the year, Fournette joins a star-studded offense that added Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski in the offseason, which paired the former New England Patriots with arguably the most dangerous receiving tandem in the NFL.
Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are easily No. 1 wideouts on most any roster, and it’s rare fantasy gamers get a pair of elite wideouts from the same offense. But adding a potential top-five tight end and now a back coming off of a No. 7 PPR showing with only three total touchdowns … phew.
This cuts both ways, however. There’s only one football, and we’re looking at four guys who are used to getting their hands on it with regularity. Fournette isn’t exactly the model of efficiency, although it cannot all be held over his head after Jacksonville’s offensive line was a dumpster fire in 2018 and parts of ’19. He gets a serious upgrade in Tampa with the big guys paving his way.
Fantasy football outlook
Fournette is injury-prone and hasn’t played a full season to date. Despite being a physical specimen, finding the end zone hasn’t been his thing, either. In 2017, Fournette averaged a score every 30.4 touches. That number improved in 2018 to 25.8, albeit over a much smaller sample size of just eight games played. In 2019, though, it required 113.7 touches before he found paydirt.
Peyton Barber and Jones combined for a dozen rushing touchdowns in 2019. If even 10 of those scores went to Fournette alone, he’s looking at low-end RB1 production should his rushing yardage hold up from the two mostly full seasons. Look at it this way: If he carries it the same 265 times as last year, all Fournette needs to average is 4.0 yards per carry to finish 13th in the 2019 rushing list (borderline RB1). That same back last year was Mark Ingram, and he racked up 10 rushing scores.
The safe presumption of Fournette’s touches should be somewhere in the 300-320 range over 16 games. There’s motivation for a huge year with a large-money deal on the line for the former LSU star, and the entire offensive system is better than anything he experienced with the Jaguars. Fournette’s personal best is only 268 carries, and he handled it 341 total times in 2019. Limitations of the offensive design (pass-friendly) and personnel around him cutting into his potential touches makes 341 likely unattainable.
Fournette is a midrange No. 2 back with a hint more appeal than he had even a week ago. The Bucs should afford him more opportunities to find the end zone but fewer targets in the passing game.
Jones is a handcuff and has a sliver of value in deeper leagues as a standalone flier. He could emerge as a PPR outlet for Brady, yet nothing about the USC product’s stock should be written in stone. Jones is a much better choice in best-ball leagues in the event Fournette once again suffers an injury.
McCoy may not make the final roster at this point and shouldn’t be drafted in any format.