Leonard Fournette to Tampa Bay (The Fantasy Impact to All Involved…)
Welcome to my new full-time job…beat writer assigned to Leonard Fournette analysis. Welcome back!! Last year, I was the lone voice of reason on Tyreek Hill reporting…now, I’m your daily personal counselor for your fantasy teams that already drafted Leonard Fournette. I got you into this mess…I just got you out. Well, I didn’t…Bruce Arians did…actually Tom Brady did.
Tom Brady was why Tampa was so high on my list for Fournette-to-TB this whole journey – the Bucs have a short Brady-window, they needed to try to cash in on a title shot RIGHT NOW. Fournette was the perfect piece to fall into their laps. Jacksonville’s stupidity is Tampa Bay’s gain. And don’t for a second overlook the fact that Bruce checked with Tom on this, and he needed two seconds to realize he wanted Fournette over RoJo behind him. Nothing shameful on RoJo, it’s just – it’s Leonard Fournette!! Brady is no fool.
I’m working on our computer simulated Faux 3.0 NFL season projections – I can tell you now, I’m going back to Tampa Bay as my NFC South champs. I had TB there in my 1.0 version. The Saints grabbed it back in 2.0. I’m guessing the Bucs will be the winners in 3.0.
Anyone going to watch that Week 1, Sunday at 4:25pmET Bucs at Saints game? Man am I ready for this season to get going.
OK, it’s time to get serious here. You have work to do, some of you.
I’m somewhat surprised to learn that the signing of Leonard Fournette has been met with such disdain by the national football/fantasy analysts. I mean, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised…they hated Fournette before for little reason/flying in the face of his nice 2019 production numbers going into this season – now, they really hate him on Tampa Bay. Why don’t they like him on the Bucs?
Let’s break down why analysts are so pouty about Fournette…
Here’s the typical fantasy/football analyst’s take going into this signing (why they didn’t like Fournette):
a) Fournette was disappointing to them from his 2019 work (thus his low FF ADP/rankings)…in part, because he only scored 3 TDs on the season. You see, for short-sighted football analysts…TDs are a measure of a man. Why? Because they don’t know what they’re watching…REALLY watching in a football game and they like the highly visible TDs…and since they don’t watch most games Sunday, just watching one at a time and they don’t rewatch them for study during the week (like I do), and they are not watching Jags’ games as their choice on Sundays, so they only know them by highlights from the week – and, well, Fournette didn’t give them candy for dinner/TD moments, so he must be not so good.
Last year, the Jags were on a solo game to watch just once…Week 3 TNF vs. Tennessee. They had a 9:30am game in London Week 7 vs. Houston, that not many got up early to watch. The Jags were not in the playoffs. The Jags have no exposure and are media-boring…led by their boring, non-TD scoring RB Leonard Fournette. Fournette did have 16 total TDs his first 21 career NFL games (first two seasons), but that is SOOO two years ago. BOOOORRRINNNGGG.
265 carries, 1,152 rushing yds, 4.3 ypc, 76 catches (100 targets), 1,674 rush+rec. yds = Fournette 2019
250 carries, 1,135 rushing yds, 4.5 ypc, 53 catches (63 targets), 1,654 rush+rec. yds = D. Cook 2019
236 carries, 1,084 rushing yds, 4.6 ypc, 49 catches (68 targets), 1,588 rush+rec. yds = A. Jones 2019
278 carries, 1,137 rushing yds, 4.1 ypc, 35 catches (45 targets), 1,425 rush+rec. yds = Mixon 2019
Looking at the tallies above…why is Leonard Fournette considered dirt, and Joe Mixon has a $48M dollar contract? And why are Cook and Jones SOOOO highly rated for 2020 fantasy?
19 total TDs = Jones 2019
13 total TDs = Cook 2019
08 total TDs = Mixon 2019
03 total TDs = Fournette 2019
(12 total TDs = Fournette based on his 2017-18 TD per game pace in a 16-game season)
4th & 1 from the 1-yard line…who would you want taking the carry? Fournette or Aaron Jones? Green Bay answered that question in the 2nd-round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
But, Jones scored a lot of TDs last year…a credit to him…but that’s a main reason why the media (currently) loves Jones and hates Fournette. Jones had a nice advantage – the offense, the O-Line, and he got the opportunity (and cashed in). Minus TDs, Fournette is the best fantasy asset of the four guys listed above.
For football analysts, and thus the majority of fans, they see the difference in 2019 total TDs when they see those 4 RB names. I see all the other non-TD numbers and get excited because I know Fournette should be a Derrick Henry-like TD hog. I also can watch tape and see who is better all-around.
Another entry into the formula on why analysts hate Fournette:
b) The Jaguars were trying to get rid of him, and then did just drop him cold…so he must be bad because football teams are run so smartly and Jacksonville could never be guilty of just dumping players illogically? When has that ever happened this season? Where are Bouye-Campbell-Ngakoue all playing right now?
I dealt with this issue in my Fournette report on 9/2 midday…why are we siding with what Jacksonville does as ‘smart’? Why is the media so willing to?
As soon as Fournette was available…Tampa Bay and New England were interested, among others. Perhaps, everyone knew the Jags would do something stupid (like cut him) and the smart (NE) or good (TB) teams could just wait to pounce vs. making a waiver claim. Why trade for what’s coming for ‘free’?
The running back the media pre-hated (Fournette) got unceremoniously dumped and no team claimed him…that means he must be terrible…so, him going to Tampa Bay doesn’t move the media/analyst needle. They think Ronald Jones is ‘the guy’ and LeSean McCoy is back and better than ever, baby!!!
Hold on a minute. Really? LeSean McCoy needs to be fed?
First off, did anyone watch the 2019 season? LeSean McCoy is meaningless. No team wanted McCoy this offseason. Free agency came and went, and McCoy was not signed. The Bucs gave him a basic $1M deal at the end of June, one which they can cut him and walk away scot-free. LeSean McCoy is not a hindrance to Fournette – McCoy is very likely getting cut.
The same people who don’t get Leonard Fournette 2020 were also chiseling in stone their undying loyalty to the great Ke’Shawn Vaughn as the Bucs/Bruce Arians’ new David Johnson in May-June, despite the two backs being nothing alike.
Arians named Ronald Jones the starter in July, but how strong was that? They signed LeSean McCoy. They drafted Ke’Shawn Vaughn. They have Dare Ogunbowale. Pre-July, they didn’t seem too convinced about Jones as the lead guy. By default, because McCoy is shot, and Vaughn was overrated from the jump – they had to lean Ronald Jones for the job in July.
…and then Leonard Fournette fell into their laps.
If you think Ronald Jones is starting over Leonard Fournette this year, or splitting 50/50, you’re insane. Which means 98% of the fantasy analysts are insane right now. I don’t care if Arians says Jones is the current starter and we’ll see how fast Fournette picks things up, he has to say that – Leonard Fournette is what Ronald Jones wishes he was. Jones has built himself into a solid ‘C’ grade, perfectly cromulent power back who has passing game worries (but he’s OK) and blocking issues. Leonard Fournette comes in bigger, faster, stronger, better hands, and a better blocker. Ronald Jones is going to disappear into a few touches a game guy, the handcuff to Fournette. A nice #2 back to have.
I’m betting all-in on Fournette in Tampa Bay.
Fournette may have been 90/10 with Chris Thompson, but he’ll probably be 75/25 with Dare/RoJo here. So, a little less touches…but a far superior team all around, AND him with HIGH motivations. The NFL just spit in his face.
Joe Mixon just got some motivation sucked out of him with a $48M deal. Fournette is chasing that $48M for next year.
I’d say Fournette is going to get the same workload as Mixon this year…who would you rather have for fantasy, considering their teams and motivations?
It might be a split in Tampa’s backfield Weeks 1-2, as Fournette gets up to speed. But eventually, it’s the Fournette show. You’re willing to gamble high on Jonathan Taylor when there is NO way Marlon Mack isn’t getting 30-60% of the touches the first few weeks/half a season – but you think Fournette isn’t going to dominate the touches in Tampa quickly over RoJo? Please.
Fournette v. Ronald Jones is NO CONTEST.
At this early interpretation, I see the FF analysts mocking this Fournette-to-TB move, so your mind-numbed robot league-mates will follow suit. I’m guessing for the next 1-2-3 days Fournette will fall to a #60-80 pick overall. And maybe stay there with the season coming close and the 53-man roster news about to dominate the football news.
Now, is the time to draft Fournette as ‘a deal’. Now, is the time to get bet on Fournette as a great dynasty and redraft get in trade because most owners will see the media’s stoic reaction/the shoulder shrug of this – and that will then be their world view. You come in soft and play to their fears and strike while the price is down.
I’m willing to come to this poker table and bet all-in that a #60-80 overall ranked Fournette is worth betting on as a top 10-15 fantasy RB in Tampa Bay 2020. If everyone in the football intelligentsia loved this move and Leonard was re-ranked top 15 RB now…no great deal to be had. But as a #50-60-70-80 overall FF-player sentiment right now…pay that price to see. Don’t pay top 30-40 overall money…pay top 50-60-70-80 overall money.
Don’t wait until THEY come to their senses…
FantasyPros’ take 9/2:
Fournette signed with the Bucs after being released by the Jaguars. His contract ($2 million base, incentives based on playing time and rushing yards) suggests that he is expecting to see significant work. Still, given that he signed with the team a little more than a week before the season begins, it's going to take him time to get acclimated to the offense. Fournette can be considered a Flex play, but don't expect him to contribute immediately and, even when he does, he won't be a workhorse back given the presence of Ronald Jones. -- Dan Harris – FantasyPros
ESPN 9/2 take:
Spin: The No. 4 overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft will join a backfield already housing Ronald Jones, LeSean McCoy, Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Dare Ogunbowale. Fournette went unclaimed on waivers Tuesday after having been let go by Jacksonville over the weekend. The Patriots also reportedly expressed interest in Fournette, but he's instead opted to sign a prove-it deal that links him with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
Sporting News 9/2 take:
Leonard Fournette has found a new home, according to Adam Schefter: the Buccaneers. Having been waived and released by the Jaguars, Fournette was never likely to find a situation so fantasy friendly for him as he had with the Jags. But this signing sets him up for some production in 2020, at least. Joining up with Tom Brady gives Fournette a chance to be effective, while severely hampering the potential fantasy value of Ronald Jones, LeSean McCoy, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, and Dare Ogunbowale.
The first Bleacher Report writing I found 9/2:
In Tampa, Fournette joins a backfield where he is very unlikely to get north of 300 touches because of the presence of Jones, the former USC star who had 1,033 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns last season.
The Bucs also drafted Ke'Shawn Vaughn in the third round and still have Dare Ogunbowale, who caught 35 passes for 286 yards last season. Tampa Bay also has LeSean McCoy on the roster, although it's unclear where he might stand on the depth chart with the Bucs making the signing.
Adam Levitan of Establish The Run projected how the Bucs' running back depth chart may look following the Fournette signing:
Lot to sift through, but rough stab at how Bucs RBs eventually play out:
* Uncle Lenny 1A (RC note: anyone calling him Uncle Lenny and thinks it funny…can you trust their hot football takes?)
* Ronald Jones 1B
* Dare/Lenny on pass downs
* Ke'Shawn Vaughn healthy scratch on game days
* LeSean McCoy cut
A "1A" role in the Bucs backfield does not make for a potential starting running back on fantasy teams. The Bucs offense should revolve around its passing game with Brady, Godwin and Evans doing much of the work alongside Gronkowski and tight end O.J. Howard.
Simply put, there are too many mouths to feed on the Bucs offense, and Fournette isn't going to get nearly the amount of touches he did in Jacksonville.
The Fournette signing also makes Jones nearly undraftable at this juncture, as his ceiling now contains a hard cap with his new teammate in the fold. Accruing more than 200 touches this year seems unlikely barring an injury to Fournette, and Jones isn't going to gobble up points for PPR leagues through the pass game.
In sum, Fournette is a high-end RB3 and bench option but likely not worth placing in one of your two starting slots. Jones should be off draft boards.
RC analysis: Ummm, yeah. Go get Fournette at RB 2.5-3.0 prices. Don’t be scared of the football media who were sure Ke’Shawn Vaughn was the Bucs franchise back forever. That only blew up in their faces two months after the draft. So, do they know how to interpret this situation now? I think not.