Every year there is at least one late-round running back that finishes as an RB1. That player always possesses NFL experience, overall athleticism, resides in a good offense, with a shallow depth chart. This year, that running back will be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ Ronald Jones.
Ronald Jones Fantasy Football Outlook
Over the past ten seasons, there has always been one fantasy running back that fits the exact profile.
|Year||Player||Team||ADP||0.5 PPR RB Finish|
|2010||Peyton Hillis||Cleveland Browns||RB61||RB2|
|2011||Michael Bush||Oakland Raiders||RB43||RB9|
|2012||C.J. Spiller||Buffalo Bills||RB25||RB7|
|2013||Knowshon Moreno||Denver Broncos||RB49||RB6|
|2014||Justin Forsett||Baltimore Ravens||RB67||RB8|
|2015||Devonta Freeman||Atlanta Falcons||RB40||RB1|
|2016||LeGarrette Blount||New England Patriots||RB38||RB8|
|2017||Dion Lewis||New England Patriots||RB68||RB12|
|2018||James White||New England Patriots||RB42||RB8|
|2019||Austin Ekeler||Los Angeles Chargers||RB30||RB6|
Not all of the running backs listed above are superior pass catchers. Players such as C.J. Spiller (43 receptions), Michael Bush (37 receptions), and LeGarrette Blount (seven receptions) tallied most of their fantasy production through the running game. Ronald Jones fits this profile perfectly and is available outside the Top 32 running backs in FFPC Best Ball formats.
Just looking at his 2019 production, Jones’ numbers are pedestrian. He ranked 24th in rushing yards (724), 33rd in receptions (31), and 26th among all running backs in total touchdowns (six). However, in the games he received at least 10 carries, Jones accounted for 55 percent of the rushing yards, 11.6 percent of the receptions, and 19 percent of the touchdowns. In short, when given the chance to be the lead running back, Jones was efficient in both the running and passing game. Tampa Bay moved on from veteran Peyton Barber, vacating 154 carries including 22 red zone carries. Barber was often used at the goal line back, translating eight carries inside the five-yard line to four touchdowns.
The Buccaneers did use a third-round draft pick on Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, but head coach Bruce Arians will put the early-season trust in Jones. During his tenure as Arizona Cardinals head coach in 2015, Arians stuck with veterans Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington before finally giving a chance to dynamic rookie David Johnson. Vaughn lacks the dominant athletic profile of Johnson, giving Jones a chance to establish himself as the lead running back in an explosive Tampa Bay offense.
Tampa Bay only ran the ball 37.7 percent of the time in 2019. That is likely to change with a 43-year old quarterback, even one as accomplished as Tom Brady. Per Rich Hribar, only one quarterback age 43 or older in NFL history has attempted 100 passes in a season (Vinny Testaverde, 2007). Besides his immobility, Brady has struggled when under pressure during the last two seasons. Per PlayerProfiler, Brady ranked 33rd and 27th among all quarterbacks in pressured completion percentage the last two years. Tampa Bay’s offensive line ranked just 23rd in pass protection and allowed 40 sacks last season. The Buccaneers did upgrade their offensive line by trading up to select Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft. However, despite the strong receiving options with Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and familiar tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Buccaneers will need a strong running game to avoid divisional shootouts with the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. It is in the Buccaneers’ best interest to keep Brady healthy, and that starts with a strong running game.
Per SharpFootballAnalysis, Tampa Bay will face the ninth-easiest schedule of opposing defenses this season. They are fortunate to face the strong Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears defenses early in the season before the weather is a factor. The Buccaneers also have a fantastic four week stretch from Weeks 11-14 featuring three consecutive home games and a Week 13 bye. They also face 10 teams that ranked in the bottom half of rushing defenses in 2019. Jones faced an average of 7.0 defenders in the box per rushing attempt, fifth-highest among all running backs last season. Even a slight improvement will trigger more efficiency.
Ronald Jones has the opportunity, situation, and experience to break out this season. He has disappointed fantasy drafters over the first two years of his career, but all factors align this season. Vaughn’s presence is merely a challenge, but not an early-season threat to touches. With an improved offensive line, great quarterback, and high-scoring division, Jones is an ideal late-round running back target in all fantasy formats.