Ronald Jones finished with 1,143 scrimmage yards last season (leading all players on the team), despite Bruce Arians’ love affair with Leonard Fournette. Jones only played 67 more total offensive snaps than Fournette but had 543 more yards. When Jones actually gets the ball, he plays well, as he averaged 110 scrimmage yards in the games where he played 50% or more of the snaps in 2020 (there were seven such games). He also scored five of his eight touchdowns in those games.
The Bucs not only brought back Fournette, but they also added Giovani Bernard in the offseason. Jones already had a minimal role as a receiver, finishing with just 28 catches last year, but now it feels as if that’ll be non-existent. Bernard’s arrival feels like Fournette’s role as a receiver will diminish, which means he’ll be incorporated more as a runner. We saw this throughout the playoffs as Fournette out-touched Jones 82 to 35 (although Jones did suffer a quad injury in the team’s first game of the postseason).
2021 Bottom Line
Expect Jones to return as the Bucs’ primary runner, but Fournette will continue to be a nuisance. We project Jones to finish with more carries and rushing yards, but Fournette won’t be far behind. And Bernard’s arrival will only make things more difficult as it adds a true third threat that the Bucs didn’t have a season ago in LeSean McCoy. If Fournette goes down with an injury, Jones will be a hot commodity, but as it stands, we’re projecting him outside of the top 30 running backs (half-PPR). He should be viewed as an RB3/flex option in 2021.