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Fantasy: Can Fournette thrive in Bucs' loaded lineup? (Early projections)

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It didn't take long for Leonard Fournette to find a new NFL team, as he joins a star-studded Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad that has its sights set on getting Tom Brady another Super Bowl ring.

This will also be Fournette's second NFL stop - a move he confirmed with a fiery photoshop Wednesday night.

However, his excitement might have gotten the best of him, as he forgot someone already wears No. 27 on the Buccaneers, and it's Ronald Jones, the man he'll be competing with for lead-back duties.

Let's take a look at what this signing means for the fantasy outlooks of Fournette, Jones, and the other Bucs running backs.

Leonard Fournette

RB25 174.42 199 835 7 34 25 175 1

The Jacksonville Jaguars weren't able to get anything in return for their 2017 first-round pick on the trade market, but his tenure can't be characterized as a failure.

Fournette accumulated over 1,300 yards from scrimmage during two of his three campaigns for the Jags and finished as a top-12 fantasy back on a per-game basis in PPR formats every season.

Year Fantasy PPG Rank
2017 17.7 RB7
2018 15.1 RB12
2019 17.3 RB9

Had it not been for his struggles getting into the end zone last year (he was limited to just three touchdowns on a whopping 341 touches), Fournette would have had an even bigger fantasy result. Of the nine backs who were given at least 300 touches in 2019, only two scored fewer than eight TDs, and both played for losing teams.

The Bucs' win total is currently set at 9.5, and with the dream team that's being assembled at Raymond James Stadium, there should be plenty of positive game scripts for this rushing attack.

But will Fournette be the only one who benefits?

He'll no longer be the engine of his offense as he joins a starting lineup that already features Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski. And unlike his time in Jacksonville, Fournette will have some competition for backfield touches. That's why his fantasy stock takes a hit.

The 6-foot, 228-pound runner wasn't the most efficient back while with the Jags, especially when it came to his work as a pass-catcher. He was ranked 24th out of 32 starting running backs in PFF's elusiveness metrics, as only 23 of his 76 receptions resulted in first downs last season.

Volume is key to Fournette's fantasy success and now - a week before the regular season begins - he enters a backfield with multiple players hoping to contribute.

Fournette is by far the most talented ball carrier in Tampa Bay, but it could be several weeks before we see him promoted to a lead-back role. Even when that occurs, there'll be at least one other back - or maybe a couple - involved in the game plan each week.

This is definitely one of the better landing spots for Fournette, but his range of outcomes is much bigger, with a higher ceiling mixed with a low floor if a committee emerges.

For now, he should be drafted with the other low-end RB2s in the fifth round, who all have question marks holding back their fantasy value.

Ronald Jones

RB40 113.73 123 503 4 33 23 160 0

Head coach Bruce Arians has spent a significant amount of time talking up Jones as a three-down option who's capable of handling the bulk of the team touches out of the backfield.

Though we know Arians has a history of misleading us with his running back proclamations, this doesn't seem like one of those instances. He was likely prepared to use Jones in that role until Fournette suddenly became available.

Now, Jones will open the season with the best odds to lead the team in carries during the first couple of weeks before falling back into a committee. It's a familiar spot for the 23-year-old, who had to split touches with Peyton Barber in 2019.

There will be a small window of opportunity for RoJo to make an impact and force Arians to keep him in the starting lineup over Fournette, but the most likely outcome will be that Jones ends up as an overqualified change-of-pace back.

Even so, he should still be drafted among the other high-upside backups in the eighth- or ninth-round area.

Ke'Shawn Vaughn

RB74 44.61 34 146 1 19 14 102 0

The Vaughn era came and went in the blink of an eye.

Initially expected to challenge for the starting job, Vaughn was already at a disadvantage amid a limited offseason with no OTAs or preseason games.

He then opened training camp on the COVID-19 list and was held out of practice in the early going. That's when the team signed veteran LeSean McCoy - a clear sign it wasn't expecting much immediate help from the third-round pick.

Still, Vaughn held some fantasy value as a possible midseason breakout if Jones were to falter.

Unfortunately, Fournette's arrival means Vaughn is now buried on the depth chart and heading toward a redshirt season. He's a hold in dynasty leagues but doesn't need to be selected in redraft this year and likely won't be rostered unless a wave of injuries strike.

Dare Ogunbawale

RB79 79.94 38 126 1 40 30 250 1

Several beat writers had pegged Ogunbawale as the favorite to serve in a third-down, pass-catching specialist role, and that still may be the case.

Even with Jones and Barber seeing most of the snaps in 2019, Ogunbawale led the backfield in targets (46) and receptions (35). Unfortunately, his ceiling doesn't extend much higher than that.

Fournette, Jones, Vaughn, and McCoy are all able to contribute something in the receiving game, which will prevent Ogunbawale from reaching a target share large enough to make him roster-worthy in regular-sized leagues.

Brady's history of choosing a passing-down back he can trust might have turned James White and Danny Woodhead into PPR assets, but Ogunbawale has a long way to go before he proves himself as a consistent weapon.

Leave him on the waiver wire for now and see if he can earn Brady's confidence before considering him as a deep PPR flex play.

LeSean McCoy

Candidate to be released

The Fournette signing could have serious ramifications for the 32-year-old McCoy, who already showed he's well past his prime last season with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Fantasy managers evidently knew this already, as McCoy's ADP remained outside of the top 15 rounds after he signed with Tampa, and he normally went undrafted in most leagues.

The team is suggesting "Shady" will be a part of its plans moving forward, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. But don't be surprised if McCoy is released early in the season; even if he does remain on the roster, he'll be battling Ogunbawale for passing-down snaps.

Given the other backs on the depth chart, McCoy's age, and the clear decline we've seen from him at this point in his career, there's little margin for error for the potential future Hall of Famer. His ceiling is very low in fantasy now that Fournette has joined the mix.

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