There is nothing like a football season in Tampa Bay. Not that it pleases its followers, probably, but it’s always as fun as it gets for the rest of the fans around the nation. The Bucs have yet to put together back-to-back wins or losses, as they are 2-3 in the season but have been a continuous roller coaster since day one. Slowly but surely Tampa Bay has been turning into more of a rushing-prone team during the past few years, and in 2019 they are calling rushing plays 43 percent of the time—good for the 10th-highest percentage in the league. Does it make sense, though, with the players they have at the position?
Through five weeks of football, Tampa has featured three tailbacks: Ronald Jones II, Peyton Barber, and Dare Ogunbowale. The first two have taken on rushing tasks while Ogunbowale has been used on passing plays. Keeping Ogunbowale aside (he’s been productive with 108 yards on 108 receptions, but is the RB3 of the offense), the Buccaneers backfield comes down to Barber and Jones. And that is all we know, because their usage has varied weekly and it is not clear who the real first option is for the coaches.
Although Barber has played in 134 snaps to Jones’ 109, it is Jones who has had more touches (67) through five weeks than Barber (64). Looking just at the last three weeks, though, it looks like Jones has established himself as the lead running back. After a mediocre rookie season, Jones has stepped up and has 269 yards and a touchdown on 59 rushing attempts, having added 92 yards on just five receptions. Barber looked like the man to lead the pack but so far that hasn’t been the case — he has 214 yards on 61 carries, and his three touchdowns make him really dependable on scoring to put up good fantasy numbers. If it wasn’t for the TDs Barber would have yet to have a 10-plus point fantasy game.
Fantasy football analysis, Buccaneers RBs Ronald Jones II, Peyton Barber
Deciding between Jones and Barber could be a difficult task this week and give you pause. Yes, Jones is clearly trending upwards in usage and performance. He would be my bet eyes closed. But the Bucs fly to London this weekend to face Carolina and the two teams already played each other in Week 2. Do you know what happened back then? Barber finished with 89 yards from scrimmage and 15.9 points, while Jones had a day to forget—nine yards on 4 attempts for a horrid 0.9 points. I’d bet on their current performance trends more than in that single data point, but it is something to consider.
Carolina is dead-average in points per game allowed to RBs through Week 5, and one of the four-best teams in limiting receiving yardage from the position. That won’t do much harm to Jones and Barber, as both have classic rusher profiles. I’d say that Jones is bound to positively regress and score more touchdowns sooner rather than later, with the game against the Panthers a good one to start doing so. Keep in mind that these are two very similar players stuck in a split committee that has no reasonable pattern to it, so their production will depend on who’s hot and who’s not during the game.
Ronald Jones: Start (Flex or RB2 at most)
Peyton Barber: Start (Flex)