After testing the waters of free agency in the offseason, running back Leonard Fournette is back with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a third straight season. “Playoff Lenny” entrenched himself as RB1 with the team last season and was well on his way to a 1,000-yard year before missing the last three games with a hamstring injury. He’d eventually return in the NFC Divisional round and scored two touchdowns against the Rams.
Reports of Fournette being out of shape surfaced right before training camp and were emphatically denied by both the running back himself and first-year head coach Todd Bowles. We’ll see if he has the juice to once again be the workhorse for the Bucs offense.
2021 season statistics & fantasy finish
Rushing: Fournette took 180 carries for 812 yards (4.5 ypc) and eight touchdowns. He only fumbled the ball once for the entire season.
Receiving: He caught 69 of 84 targets for 454 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Fantasy: Fournette finished the season as the sixth ranked fantasy running back in PPR formats. He compiled 255.6 points to the tune of 18.3 fantasy points per game.
Buccaneers offseason moves
The biggest offseason move for the Buccaneer offense was the retirement and unretirement of quarterback Tom Brady, which incentivized several key guys like Fournette to re-sign with the organization. It also opened the door for the team to make major moves like trading for Patriots guard Shaq Mason and sign former Falcons receivers like Julio Jones and Russell Gage.
Tampa Bay’s offense is once again projected to be among the league’s best and Fournette will have a vital role as the starting tailback.
2022 best case scenario
A healthy Fournette playing in his third year with Tom Brady has the chance to pick up where he left off from last season and be a major catalyst towards the team’s pursuit of another Super Bowl. His career-high 4.5 yards per carry last year is a good sign and he also carved out a role as a pass catcher out of the backfield. There’s a strong chance that he continues to be one of the top fantasy backs this fall.
2022 worst case scenario
What if the reports of him being overweight and out of shape were accurate? That wouldn’t bode well for his production, especially considering how tough the Bucs’ schedule is right out the gate. Fournette is entering his sixth season in the NFL and this is where the production of most tailbacks start the trail off a little bit. On top of that, the organization is really high on rookie back Rachaad White out of Arizona State and you could see him splitting carries with the veteran by the end of the season.
I think “Playoff Lenny” will be fine this season and will be motivated by playing with Tom Brady for another year. Tampa Bay’s offense should be a well oiled machine barring injury and that could only mean positive things for Fournette and fantasy managers alike.