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Fantasy Fallout: Leonard Fournette in Tampa Bay

With Leonard Fournette headed to Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers backfield will get a shake up. We break down the fantasy football implications.

Ronald Jones II #27 and LeSean McCoy #25 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers walk on the field during training camp at AdventHealth Training Center on September 02, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

UPDATE 10:55 a.m.: Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said Ronald Jones is “our guy” but we’ll see what happens as Fournette gets comfortable in the team’s offense. Arians said the job is Jones’ and doesn’t see him losing it.

The release of running back Leonard Fournette by the Jacksonville Jaguars has led to fantasy shakeups in the running back rooms of both the Jaguars and now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs picked up the former first round pick to help in their quest for a Super Bowl under new, yet old, QB Tom Brady.

Fournette was released for multiple reasons, but those reasons have less to do with his ability than where the team is headed. The Jaguars are in rebuilding mode, have some decent young running backs and didn’t want to pay Fournette $4 million. But the Bucs did want to pay him $2 million in base salary with incentives that could raise that to $3.5 million in his one-year Super Bowl or bust contract.

The ex-Jaguar hadn’t exactly blown away the league with his skill set. Now in Tampa Bay, he’s joining a crowded backfield with Ronald Jones, LeSean McCoy, Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Dare Ogunbowale. The move is likely a positive one for Tampa Bay, but how will things shake out for fantasy?

NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reports that McCoy will still be a big part of the passing game, which if Fournette wasn’t there, would still be a blow to Jones’ fantasy upside. Nobody, including Bruce Arians knows exactly how this group will perform and who, if anyone, will rise above the fray.

Fournette has proven he can perform at this level, but he’s not a player who we can just ink into the No. 1 spot in the backfield and take the rest of the day off. Ronald Jones has shown flashes in the regular season and has had a good camp. We also know that McCoy has the resume to stick with the team and according to Garafolo, he is in line for work. The question is, did they go after Fournette to compete with Jones and share work like Peyton Barber last season because their third-round draft pick Ke’Shawn Vaughn didn’t live up to expectations or because Jones hasn’t lived up to expectations?

At this point, there is little clarity, but I will approach this situation much like last season with Jones and Barber instead of going all in on either back. One could emerge, but there is a good chance that since Fournette is getting to the team late, that Jones will get the majority of the early down work Week 1 and then we’ll see if Fournette has made much headway in the competition by Week 2. He could take off with the job, but he’s not going to become their every-down back.

Fournette now sits at RB32 in PPR rankings while Jones takes a big hit to RB 39. McCoy and the rest of the gang aren’t worth drafting in most leagues, but in deeper leagues McCoy could have some PPR value.

The good news is that the Buccaneers offense should be good, unlike the Jaguars, so opportunities will be there. I like Fournette’s chance to run with the early down job enough to grab him at value.