Running backs are going to be drafted early and often when your fantasy football season kicks off, but where Tampa Bay Buccaneers Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones fit is a question of depth and potential.
Nobody is talking about Peyton Barber being a top fantasy football running back entering 2019. Like the team itself, the Bucs’ starting running back is expected to be near the bottom of his peer group when all is said and done.
So it isn’t surprising his current average draft position is as low as it is, but there are some surprises in how Buccaneers running backs are being drafted, and the surprises it shows many expect moving forward.
But first, lets look back to 2018.
PEYTON BARBER’S AND RONALD JONES’ 2018 FANTASY FOOTBALL SEASON
When the Bucs drafted Ronald Jones in the second-round of the 2018 NFL Draft, dreams of dual back attacks with Barber smashing the defense while ‘RoJo’ gashed them for chunk yards and big plays, danced through the heads of Tampa Bay fans everywhere. What happened wasn’t quite what everyone expected.
THE GOOD: THE CONSISTENT ONE
Looking at Peyton Barber’s draft position you’d think he finished way outside of 12-Team RB2 consideration. In fact, Barber finished 2018 as RB27, and ended up ahead of guys like Sony Michel, Mark Ingram and Kerryon Johnson. All three are getting drafted consistently ahead of Barber for 2019 as their impact and opportunities are expected to increase.
However, even if Barber’s workload may not be projected to get bigger as the Buccaneers hope to get more out of Jones’ perceived potential, he may be getting slighted a bit due to the perceived lack of real-life results versus his fantasy production.
RB27 makes him at least a prime spot-start candidate, and if you did so in Week 11 you were pretty happy with Barber’s Top-10 fantasy running back finish.
THE BAD: UNMET POTENTIAL
Ronald Jones’ 2018 season stat line would have netted you 17.2 points (.5 pt PPR). Not in one week. In the entire season.
So, if you drafted him, you quickly regretted it and likely waived him fairly quickly unless you’re one dedicated Tampa Bay Buccaneers homer.
Now, in 2019 there is hope Bruce Arians and his new staff will find a way to unlock Jones’ perceived potential.
An important question people have to ask themselves though is: Is it possible Jones’ rookie year debacle is really 100% on the shoulders of Dirk Koetter and his coaching staff?
I’d venture the real answer is likely somewhere in the middle. Koetter and his staff likely could have done something different or something more to help Jones get up to speed. Likewise, Jones either didn’t put in effort where he should have, or perhaps just didn’t have the mental dedication or acuity to make it in the environment he landed in, in 2018.
We can’t dismiss Jones from any responsibility here, and considering he finished behind Chicago Bears 2017 undrafted free-agent Taquan Mizzell in fantasy scoring last year, the draft stock on Jones shouldn’t be too high. Should it?
PEYTON BARBER’S AND RONALD JONES’ 2019 FANTASY FOOTBALL POTENTIAL
Let’s get right down to it here. Peyton Barber is being drafted, on average, at pick three of the eleventh round of twelve team drafts. Pick 123 to be exact.
Ronald Jones is currently being drafted with the second pick of the tenth round on average.
In my trials, Jones’ highest draft position was the eighth pick of the eighth round. Barber’s highest selection came as the first pick of the eleventh round.
Jones’ worst draft position was the eleventh pick of the tenth round. Two picks ahead of Barber’s best draft position.
Now, let’s be clear. I’m in the school of thought that believes Jones will do better than he did in 2018. And I don’t just mean better as in surpassing his sad stat line from last season, better as in consistent ability to impact the offense and ability to actually carve out a role on the offense.
I do believe this will happen. But Peyton Barber is the starting running back of the team until told otherwise. What this draft positioning tells me is NFL fans fully expect Jones to take over starting duties in Tampa Bay, and early.
Even if I believed Jones would surpass Barber on the depth chart, say mid-season, I wouldn’t spend a single-digit round draft pick on him. That’s a double-digit stash pick all day, every day.
But there is no reason to believe this can happen. In fact, Carmen Vitali of Buccaneers.com has been on record stating Barber has had his own solid spring along with the perceived improvements Jones is making.
Bottom line up front. If you draft intelligently you won’t be getting Ronald Jones. He’ll be gone before you’d be wise to select him. If you want to ‘Yolo’ your fantasy draft, then grab him in the 8-10 round range and hope you get to be a genius. But let’s be honest here in saying a draft pick spent on Jones that high is pure guess work.
Barber in the eleventh round is a slight bargain, but I feel like rounds 9-11 are good for him. He could see an uptick in per carry production, but his touches could fall depending on how the offense gets going under Arians and Byron Leftwich.
More big play scores means fewer opportunities for Barber, but if the Bucs can put together some wins, then Barber will be a prime garbage time candidate. Those points count just like crunch time points.
What really amazed me though, is the fact Barber is being drafted - on average - behind Kareem Hunt. Hunt will miss the entire first half of the season and is being drafted a full round ahead of Barber - a starter who played in 16 games last season.
Again, you’d be wise to let the ‘Yolo’ drafters take fliers while waiting to get the 16-game starter. The best ability is availability, and Barber has plenty of it.
If Jones comes out of camp and the preseason showing some burst and ability we didn’t see in 2018, then I might understand this a bit better. Raw talent to raw talent, Jones’ ability is more electric and yields better big play opportunity. But up to now, I can’t justify what the tests have shown.
PEYTON BARBER: RB 25; Draft in the *9th round or later
RONALD JONES: UNDRAFTED IN EARLY DRAFT LEAGUES (PRE-TRAINING CAMP AND PRESEASON)
*Draft projection based on 12-Team Leagues