It didn't take Leonard Fournette long to find a new job, as the former-Jaguar signed with the Buccaneers Wednesday in a move that is surely going to cause countless headaches for Fantasy players. Fournette, who was waived by the Jaguars Monday after three disappointing seasons since being the No. 4 overall pick, joins Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski as the Bucs headline-making additions this offseason. He also joins a backfield that already featured Ronald Jones and veteran LeSean McCoy, which makes it hard to see exactly what Fournette's role will be. Or anyone else's.
Fournette is more accomplished than Jons, of course. He had 1,165 rushing yards and 76 receptions for 522 yards with the Jaguars last season, compared to 724 rushing yards, 31 receptions, and 309 yards for Jones. Jones notably struggled with pass blocking and catching, while Fournette has more experience in both regards, though neither is notably a strength of his game. So, what this mostly does is muddy the waters in Tampa — at least for now. Though we did receive at least a bit of clarity Thursday, when Bruce Arians told reporters Jones remains the starter for the Buccaneers to begin the season, while calling Fournette "a heck of an insurance option":
Arians: "It's his job. Nothing has changed for him. It's his job, he's got it, he's got to screw it up to lose it and I don't see that happening."— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) September 3, 2020
Of course, that doesn't mean he will remain in that role all season long, and it's still true that this is bad news for Jones' Fantasy value. It would be a stretch to say Jones was considered a breakout candidate in Fantasy because he didn't have much competition in Tampa, but that was certainly part of the appeal. Now, there definitely is, and it's not out of the question Fournette could be the primary option in Tampa at some point this season.
It could be that this was a scenario where the Buccaneers simply couldn't pass on this kind of talent becoming available, but that begs the question why would Fournette sign here so quickly as a free agent if there wasn't an opportunity available? There wasn't necessarily an obvious landing spot for Fournette after the Jags released him, but with a week left before the season started, one could have opened up with a late injury. Which makes it seem like he was probably guaranteed some kind of significant role.
It's possible the Bucs view Fournette as a complement to Jones, but as noted earlier, it's not like either profiles especially well for a passing downs role. Which means this could be a straight up timeshare, and that's always worst-case scenario — not because both couldn't be useful, but because it gives both a narrow path to viability. The biggest takeaway from this signing is how difficult it is going to be to trust either player to start the season.
Which makes it tough to make a significant investment in either Jones or Fournette in drafts. My immediate reaction is both tumble down the rankings, and it's hard to say which one should even be drafted first. My gut says Fournette, if only because the Bucs went out and got him rather than standing pat with Jones and McCoy. Bruce Arians has mostly praised Jones this offseason and especially in camp, but this sure doesn't come off as a vote of confidence from a coach who has exacting standards from the running back position.
There's certainly plenty of potential production available in this offense for the running back position, and if one of Jones or Fournette were to see the majority of the touches, either would be a viable starting option. Alternately, if we could say for sure one or the other would be the passing down's back at the very least, we could prioritize that one in PPR. However, you can't draft either with any kind of certainty right now. You're probably looking at both slotting into the back part of the top-30 in the running back rankings, in what could be a similar situation to Buffalo's, where both Devin Singletary and Zack Moss rank between 27 and 31 for both Dave Richard and Jamey Eisenberg pre-draft.
If you can grab either Jones or Fournette in the seventh round, that seems like a good spot for them. There's upside beyond that, of course, but it's hard to see it with what we know right now.