By Brendan Taffe

Every year there are a handful of players who lose a significant amount of value as soon as the NFL Draft happens. A new, younger, rookie is drafted to the same position by the same team as your RB2 or WR3 and his value immediately tanks. I am here this week to defend some of those players.

Ronald Jones – RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Why his value dropped: KeShawn Vaughn

Ronald Jones has not had the easiest path to fantasy stardom through his first two years in the league. For as remarkable as the 2017 running back class was (mentioned in yesterday’s Marlon Mack article), the 2018 class was the polar opposite.  Saquon Barkley has lived up to the hype, and Nick Chubb has exceeded expectations as the fourth back off the board.  Rashaad Penny, Sony Michel, Kerryon Johnson, and Derrius Guice have all mostly been busts outside of those stars. Jones can closely relate to the latter group than the former, but there is much more reason for optimism for him than any of those other four.

In his rookie year, 21-year-old Jones found himself behind 24-year-old Peyton Barber, who got most of the work, and 28-year-old Jacquizz Rodgers, who typically served as the 3rd down back. Last year, Jones usurped Barber as the lead back. He outcarried him by 18 attempts, which is a stark difference from the 211 attempt difference in year 1. With the Bucs hiring a new head coach and new offensive coordinator, fantasy owners did not know what to expect. When you add in an erratic quarterback who has an affinity for chucking the ball downfield, keeping projections low was probably a good idea. Surprisingly, Ronald Jones amassed over 1000 yards from scrimmage with 6 touchdowns.  

The 26th best fantasy running back is a useful yet unspectacular player. Not consistent enough to be a weekly RB2, but accountable enough to be used in the flex. With Ke’Shawn Vaughn now on the team, most would expect a worse finish than last year. However, there is reason to believe the opposite is true. A significant reason for that is who is playing quarterback this season.  Jameis Winston is a gift and a curse. He led the league in passing yards, but he also led the league in turnovers. For a quarterback that can’t help but chuck it downfield, dumping the ball off to the running back seems out of the question. During Jameis’ Tampa Bay tenure, the most receptions a running back caught in a year was 38. Over the last two years, Patriots RB James White caught 159. It is unreasonable to compare Ronald Jones to James White as a pass-catcher, but this does signify that Tom Brady is much more inclined to throw to his running backs than Winston was, so the targets should be there for Jones.  

Ronald Jones graded as the #2 RB in the 2017 class with a 6.7 grade on NFL.com. He was tied with Derrius Guice, and only trailed Saquon Barkley. While he has not shown the ability to be an elite pass-catcher, his NFL prospect overview noted his potential. His NFL comparison as a prospect was Jamaal Charles.  

Vaughn is a different story. He graded as the 15th best running back prospect with a 5.95 grade, which equates to a “backup/special teamer.” Vaughn’s NFL comparison is Jamaal Williams, whose limitations were mentioned in Monday’s article.

This year’s Buccaneers offense will operate with much more precision than in years past. Each drive will feature a variety of surgical strikes to Brady’s endless receiving options. Between Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, OJ Howard, and Gronk, defenses have more talented players to worry about than Ronald Jones. First-round pick Tristan Wirfs will help, but the Buccaneers’ offensive line still projects to be middle of the road. When all else fails, Jones can provide a reliable option for Brady underneath. It is easy to get scared away after a player has a poor rookie year and then a mediocre second year. If you have been holding onto Jones through his first two years, now is not the time to bail. After all, patience rewards those who wait.  

Brendan Taffe – Dynasty/Podcast
Ride or Dynasty
@BCTAFFE