The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been busy stacking their offensive backfield for the 2019 season. Signing Andre Ellington and re-signing Peyton Barber have the group looking solid for the upcoming campaign, but is it good enough?
Recent rumors have tied the Bucs to some available free-agents like Isaiah Crowell while earlier in the off-season they were speculated to be good fits for big names like Le’Veon Bell and Kareem Hunt who both landed elsewhere.
Of course, there’s always the draft route where the team has had some recent swings and misses with guys like Jeremy McNichols and Ronald Jones.
Jones still has a shot at proving his second-round selection was warranted and is among the reasons some surrounding the Bucs have given pause to the idea of the team drafting one this April.
So, should they or shouldn’t the Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft a running back in 2019? David Harrison and James Yarcho weigh in.
Yes, the Buccaneers should absolutely draft a running back in the 2019 NFL Draft. And there are multiple reasons why. First, we have to look at what the Bucs have.
Topping the off-season depth chart is Peyton Barber. A guy I’m a huge fan of and have been since he was at Auburn. When Tampa Bay signed him as an undrafted free-agent I was super excited, and predicted back then he’d become a starter in the NFL.
Now, here he is. And I couldn’t be happier to see him wearing a Bucs uniform in 2019.
Then, they have Ronald Jones. As mentioned above, he’s a second-round pick from one year ago and hasn’t really done much. He didn’t get on the field much at all in 2018 and when he did it didn’t leave people yearning for more Rojo.
Andre Ellington is next, and he didn’t do any better than Rojo did in 2018 because he didn’t play at all. Ellington is a talented guy and has shown as much in his career, but he’s about as injury prone as a person can get. Simply put, his body doesn’t agree with his career choices.
As much as I liked what Ellington brought to the table when healthy in Arizona, he simply didn’t do much of that, and it’s lead him to where he is now. I truly believe Ellington is more of an install coach and mentor to the younger backs than he is a contributor.
Finally, there’s Shaun Wilson and Dare Ogunbowale. Two guys who have shown some flashes of being really good football players, but for whatever reason just haven’t been able to stick as consistent members of the active roster. Both guys are threats to make the final roster, but each has a bit of an uphill battle to win over if they’re going to do it. Those dual practices Bruce Arians has talked about are going to help guys like these the most.
So this is what the Bucs have. Now, what don’t they have. They don’t have a thousand-yard rusher and they don’t have a guy who presents a legitimate threat out of the backfield.
When you look at the final four teams from this past season, all four of them had a running back who netted more than 1,200-yards of offense during the regular season.
Barber had just over 950-yards of offense and only 92-yards came in the passing game. Not having the versatility to run and catch is an automatic advantage to the opposing defense.
This doesn’t mean the Bucs have to draft one guy who can do both however. Barber did have nearly 900-yards of rushing, and it’s safe to assume had the team been in more late games then he likely would have eclipsed 1,000.
So, while Barber continues striving towards becoming a better receiver, it makes sense for the team to target a receiving back who is striving to become a better between the tackles type of runner.
Pairing the two gives the team a combination which can be used to regain the advantage the team lost last year when putting Barber or Jacquizz Rodgers alone in the backfield.
Arians’ offenses have shown a tendency to play with two backs, and while Byron Leftwich is the coordinator and play-caller, you only have to go back to some of Leftwich’s own comments to know Arians will influence the scheme.
Ellington knows the system, and can help Barber become a better all around back. He can also aid in getting this new rookie acclimated to his role without feeling the pressure of becoming a three-down back himself. Meanwhile, if Ronald Jones is able to get on track then the team has a third head on the snake for defenses to prepare for.
These are the reasons the team needs to target a running back in the NFL Draft. And there are plenty of guys available to fill the exact role they need in 2019.
At the end of the day, Bruce Arians feels that Peyton Barber is one of the better backs in the league. He’s gushed over the film he’s watched - whether it be games, practices, or all the way back to training camp. That’s why they got Barber under contract for 2019. Plain and simple, Arians likes what he sees and that’s what he’s rolling with.
Barber was an effective back when given the opportunity. However, Koetter had a propensity to sit him for with no rhyme or reason for long stretches in favor of Jacquizz Rodgers. No offense to Rodgers, but he was long past being an effective back and the offense would suffer with him in. Barber isn’t a marathon man and would need breaks here and there, but that doesn’t excuse the amount of carries that were taken away when Barber should have been on the field.
Adding Andre Ellington in that Rodgers role will allow the running backs to be caught up to speed much sooner as he is familiar with Arians and what Arians likes to do or expects from his running backs.
Then there’s Ronald Jones. Jones was a promising prospect that was buried in Koetter’s dog house, stunting his development and growth during his rookie season. Arians said to Buccaneers’ senior editor Scott Smith, “I’m really anxious to get on the field with all our guys but (Jones) especially, to see how much he can do of what we did in Arizona.”
RoJo is being given a new opportunity, a new life under Arians. There’s a reason he was a second round pick. He may not have been the guy a lot of Bucs fans werre looking at or hoping for, but that doesn’t mean his talent wasn’t there or deserving of the pick. With proper coaching - both at the running back position as well as along the offensive line - Jones will have the opportunity to showcase his talents.
Could the Bucs draft a running back? Absolutely. There’s always a need for depth as well as impact players no matter the position. However, given the holes in other areas, the Bucs seem poised to head into the 2019 season with the crop they already have on the roster. There’s nothing wrong with that. They have solid players, contributors, that will be an effective part of the offense throughout the year.
Again, I can’t stress enough how important, how vital coaching is. Bottom line - the Bucs’ coaching the past few years has been bad. Their offensive line coach was one of the worst in the league, their head coach was predictable and transparent, and their defensive coordinator orchestrated one of the worst defenses in the 100 year history of this game. All that changed. All those shortcomings and problems went out the window when they cleaned house and ushered in the Arians era. This team was never void of talent. It was void of accountability, creativity, leadership, and knowledge. They will be just fine with the stable of backs they have now, led by an undrafted rookie out of Auburn.