The Leonard Fournette saga has come to an abrupt end as the veteran running back has agreed to terms with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After going through waivers unclaimed, there were a few teams reportedly interested in his services. Tampa Bay ended up making the most compelling offer for Fournette and he subsequently signed a one-year deal that can be worth up to $3.5 million if he hits incentives that reportedly (and wisely) include playing time and rushing yards. The move has some serious dynasty impact, so let’s discuss the players involved. For the breakdown on what Fournette’s release meant for the Jaguars, read my article from yesterday – Claim Jumper: Leonard Fournette now a Free Agent.
Leonard Fournette, RB TB
As I said yesterday, Fournette just isn’t the elite prospect the Jaguars thought they were getting when they took him fourth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. He’s more of an early down grinder and has had some durability issues with his ankles as well. Last year was his best season as he finished with a 265/1,152/3 line with a career high 76 catches for 522 more yards. While the catches made up for a lack of touchdowns and thus made him the RB9 overall, he just wasn’t efficient and has become more of a volume performer, as indicated by his 341 touches last season.
I listed Tampa Bay first on my list of teams I thought would be interested in him yesterday as Tom Brady continues to add veteran players to his new “Brady Bunch” – it just seemed to make too much sense. The challenge for Fournette in Tampa Bay, however, is going to be the loaded running back room. Tampa Bay currently has Ronald Jones, LeSean McCoy, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Dare Ogunbowale and Raymond Calais on the roster. We’ll get to each of those, but that’s a lot of mouths to feed and there’s no way all those backs are going to make the team.
On the plus side, Fournette is going to play out the season on a one-year pact in search of a more lucrative long-term deal in Tampa or elsewhere at the end of the season. He’s going to be motivated and playing with a Florida-sized chip on his shoulder. While he may not start week one, it’s hard to see any of the other running backs on the roster holding him off from early down work for long. You can safely expect Fournette’s carries and especially his catches dropping pretty dramatically this next year, though he could make up for some of that with better luck in the touchdown department. This landing spot isn’t the best case scenario for Fournette as he’ll play in some type of a committee and his ADP is going to suffer a bit as a result. He will likely end up as a touchdown dependent, low-end RB2 this season. If you believe Fournette is going to have a career year, this would be the time to strike as his pricetag is going down.
Ronald Jones, RB TB
The big loser in this deal is clearly Jones. He’s been talked up all off-season as the three down back in Tampa Bay and that just went out the window. While the coaches have said all the right things, the additions of McCoy and now Fournette just tell a different story. With Fournette coming to town, Jones is now going to be relegated to, at best, the “2” in a “1-2” punch at running back and also likely cede the goal line carries to Fournette. In short, he’s just not destined to have a big season unless Fournette gets hurt again (which isn’t a far fetched scenario). This is a major buzzkill and is going to send his dynasty ADP plummetting very quickly. He could still establish himself this year and have a chance to start next season if Fournette moves on, but that’s just a lot of “what if’s.” RoJo is just not going to get the chance his owners were hoping for.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB TB
I really don’t want to be the site to say, “We told you so,” as we certainly make our fair share of mistakes. However, we’ve said all Summer that you don’t take a third round running back over a first round wide receiver, regardless of how juicy you think the situation might be. Owners who took Vaughn highly in rookie drafts just got burned. While he still has a nice future and could just be one year away from a prominent role, the addition of Fournette is a major punch in the gut for his owners. He’s going to drop in rookie rankings and is now a likely third round rookie pick. He’s clearly behind Antonio Gibson and is likely in a rookie running back tier that includes players like Darrynton Evans, Zack Moss and AJ Dillon, whom I could make a case for being taken ahead of Vaughn now.
As a side note, I’ve seen buzz on twitter about this being the time to buy on Vaughn. I’d be pretty wary of that. Any rookie drafter took him in the late first or second round in their rookie draft and they likely wouldn’t sell him for pennies on the dollar. You can make your offers of a third round rookie pick or veteran player, but you’re probably going to be “that guy,” who looks like they’re just trying to be a vulture.
LeSean McCoy, RB TB
The Bucs have reportedly told McCoy he won’t be cut. We’ll see soon enough if that’s the case, but it’s hard to see him carving out any kind of value without a whole host of injuries. He’ll likely be a game day inactive since he doesn’t play special teams and any dynasty value he had is likely gone now. Even if he was to be waived, it’s just hard to see Shady ever returning to fantasy relevance.
Dare Ogunbowale, RB TB
I actually think Ogunbowale’s value isn’t really affected by the signing of Fournette. Ogunbowale was likely going to be the passing down back for the Bucs and that likely hasn’t changed. Fournette and Jones are likely going to have some type of 70/30 or 60/40 type of split and cede receptions to Ogunbowale. Still, the scraps left over in this offense don’t really make Ogunbowale a desirable dynasty asset at the moment.
Raymond Calais, RB TB
The Bucs are going to need to stash Calais on their practice squad if they’ve liked what they’ve seen so far. Regardless, Calais is no longer a late round dynasty rookie sleeper and needs to be left on the wire.