What does Leonard Fournette to the Buccaneers mean for fantasy football?

Fantasy Football, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Leonard Fournette is going to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and fantasy football owners are left to navigate an even more crowded backfield.

After being let go by the Jacksonville Jaguars and clearing waivers, it was a matter of time before Leonard Fournette landed somewhere. On Wednesday, news came that he will sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With the arrival of Tom Brady, the Buccaneers’ running back situation instantly got more interesting from a fantasy perspective. Ronald Jones topped 1,000 total yards last year, but his shortcomings in certain areas led to the drafting Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third round of April’s draft. The late-July addition of LeSean McCoy further clouded the situation. Now Fournette is in the mix, with a prominent role virtually assured.

Despite the broad uncertainty of his situation in Jacksonville, Fournette has been a third-round pick in fantasy drafts. Those who have already drafted him can take a sigh of relief now, but the touch volume he enjoyed with the Jaguars last year (265 carries, 100 targets-76 receptions) will not be coming in Tampa Bay.

Leonard Fournette lands in good spot for fantasy

Fournette only had three touchdowns last year. But his 18 rushing touchdowns over the last three seasons from five yards to go or less is tied for third-most in the league over that span. So goal line work should predominantly be his in Tampa Bay, and those are premium touches for what should be a very good offense.

A lot has been made of Fournette’s volume-driven passing game production last year. But Pro Football Focus gave him a 74.2 receiving grade, while the other three running backs with NFL experience on Tampa Bay’s roster came in below 70. So his potential role as a pass catcher shouldn’t be dismissed.

McCoy will apparently stick around in the wake of Fournette signing, and be in the mix on passing situations and third downs. McCoy is more firmly off the fantasy radar now though, and Dare Ogunbowale (35 catches last year) is now left to possibly stick on special teams.

Vaughn was an apple of the fantasy eye for awhile. But he started camp on the COVID-19 list, and his role for Week 1 (or beyond now) might be primarily as a kick returner.

Jones has been the subject of positive buzz this offseason, with head coach Bruce Arians singing his praises as an all-round back just prior to the reports attaching Tampa Bay to Fournette. Sharing work with Fournette, and probably being on the wrong side of that split, takes Jones from a fringe breakout candidate in the low-end RB2 or flex conversation down to bench/roster depth territory as a RB4/RB5 in 12-team leagues.

All in all, Tampa Bay is a solid fantasy landing spot for Fournette. Being such a late signing creates questions about his Week 1 role. But he’s in line to deliver RB2 numbers for the season, as the expected positive touchdown correction he already had in his corner gets a natural boost in a Tom Brady-led offense.

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