Bucs head coach Bruce Arians announced that Ronald Jones’ play earned him the right to start over incumbent Peyton Barber. Finally. It’s welcome news for fantasy football gamers with Jones on their roster, but it sure took long enough.
A case of the rookie woes
Fans and analysts alike predicted a breakout rookie campaign for Jones that he failed to deliver. He struggled throughout the season, totaling 77 yards from scrimmage on 30 touches (2.6 yards per touch) in nine games. The second-round pick from USC played sparingly behind Barber, failed to be effective in pass protection and never earned a chance to start. More often than not Jones found himself on the bench.
But it wasn’t all his fault. Outside of his rookie struggles, the Bucs offensive line ranked among the worst in the NFL for run-blocking. As a team they averaged 3.9 YPC, which ranked No. 31. According to Football Outsiders, Tampa Bay RBs were tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage 24.7-percent of the time (No. 30 in the NFL). It’s a big reason the Bucs finished the season ranked No. 29 in rush yards per game.
The undrafted Barber didn’t impress in 2018 either, finishing with 834 rushing yards, five TDs, and a 3.7 YPC average. His career average of 3.3 YPC raises red flags. And while his body mass index – 32.7 (92nd-percentile) – signals bell-cow back, he’s failed to live up to the potential in his 5-10, 228-pound frame. To be frank, there’s not much outside of BMI to like about Barber’s metrics profile.
Jones, meanwhile, profiles more as a big-play threat than an every-down back at 5-11, 205-pounds. He has the speed to break runs outside as evidenced by his 4.53 40-yard dash time. But he also proved he could carry a sizeable load in college and had three seasons of near-elite production with his best numbers coming in his senior season (261-1,550-19). His college YPC of 5.9 shows he’s capable of being an efficient runner.
The road so far
Fast-forward to Week 10 and it’s officially the Ronald Jones show. And a look at his numbers versus those of Barber this season confirm why Jones took over:
The Bucs are running the ball more this season, too. Their 26.4 run plays per game rank No. 14, up from No. 22 last season. But Tampa Bay needs to utilize Jones more in the passing game. He averages an eye-popping 15.5 yards per reception but only saw nine targets to date. His targets should increase once Jones settles into the lead role, but his lack of passing game usage caps his fantasy upside.
Buy, sell or hold?
If Jones happens to be sitting on waivers after the Wednesday run, go get him. If you already had him on your roster, congratulations. Hold onto him. The increased volume he’ll see as the starter will help increase his fantasy production. That proved true in Week 9 against Seattle when Jones reached 20 touches, tying his high mark for the season. With his big-play ability – he has three runs of 15 yards or farther, and his longest reception went 41 yards – Jones can make his week in one play. He also gets a dream matchup for the fantasy playoffs in Week 15, when the Bucs face Detroit. The Lions allow the most fantasy points in the NFL to opposing RBs.
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