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Few things have worked out as planned for anyone in 2020. Why should the fantasy production from the Buccaneers’ backfield be any different?
In a flurry of high-profile offseason acquisitions by Tampa Bay, one was landing former Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette. In his first three seasons, he was among the most productive in the NFL — when healthy.
He was to share a backfield with incumbent Ronald Jones, who was largely pedestrian in his first two seasons. Jones couldn’t even shake fully free of a committee with the (cough) immortal (cough) Peyton Barber.
It was only a matter of time before Fournette took the reins, right? Why go out and get him otherwise? How would Jones, just another guy, compete with a former fourth-overall draft pick? Who was the offensive catalyst on a team that came within a whisker of the Super Bowl in his rookie season?
Of course, this is 2020, and with COVID-19 canceling the bulk of the offseason, it might take a bit longer than normal. But then Fournette had a huge game in Week 2 — nearly doubling Jones’ carries and dwarfing his production. Maybe the shift would come sooner than expected?
Yet that was one of just two games this season in which Fournette got the bulk of carries. Fournette has dealt with some injury issues, but that alone doesn’t explain the massive gap in carries, yards and efficiency — Jones: 180-900 (5.0 yards per carry); Fournette: 69-271 (3.9 ypc).
Needless to say, it became apparent the Fournette Transition was not going to happen. The Madman has spent weeks shedding what shares we had where we could, across 39 leagues — with just a rogue roster or two still stuck with him. This seemed a wise strategy as Fournette’s usage continued to drop — he was even a healthy scratch last week.
But this is 2020, in which every expectation is turned on its head. Now Jones likely will miss Sunday’s game after surgery on his pinky plus being placed on the COVID-19 list as a close contact. That puts Fournette back in play during fantasy semifinals week.
If Jones can’t go, It will either be Fournette or some committee that could include LeSean McCoy, Ke’Shawn Vaughn or Kenjon Barner. None of these rate in the same category as Fournette other than McCoy, and that would be Four Years Ago McCoy, at best, not the McCoy who will suit up Sunday.
So back to Fournette we go. But do be aware, the Falcons are not among the generous to fantasy RBs, allowing the seventh fewest PPR points. even Jones would have been a Flex option, but not a must-start, and at this point Fournette rates lower than Jones.
We’ll play him over the Wayne Gallman, J.D. McKissic types. But not over even disappointing options like Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ezekiel Elliott or J.K. Dobbins.
So just to recap, here’s Fournette’s projection progress: eventually good, good now, not good now, not good ever, maybe good again. Leonard Fournette, he is so very 2020.
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