How long is Leonard Fournette out? Injury timeline, return date, updates on Buccaneers RB

What is the latest injury timeline for Leonard Fournette, and should fantasy managers make other plans for the fantasy playoffs?

With the signs pointing towards Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette being placed on the injured reserve with his hamstring injury, what does that mean for fantasy football managers? Let’s take a look at the timeline of Fournette’s potential absence and whether fantasy managers should hold out hope for a return this season.

Leonard Fournette Injury Timeline: Will he return this season for fantasy managers?

Fournette’s hamstring injury was immediately a concern after he was seen on crutches Sunday night. Initially, there was some optimism that Fournette might be able to return before the end of the regular season. However, on December 21, sources told NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero that the Buccaneers were signing RB Le’Veon Bell. That news all but initiated that Tampa will place Fournette on IR. And in fact, Adam Schefter confirmed that Fournette is now likely to land on the IR.

With just three games remaining in the season, landing on IR would end Fournette’s 2021 campaign. The Buccaneers RB would have to miss a mandatory three games, making him eligible to return during Wild Card Weekend — if the Buccaneers do not have a bye. However, that would end Fournette’s season from a fantasy perspective. Any managers who had ridden the Buccaneers RB into their fantasy playoffs will now need to look elsewhere for a potential starting RB.

Fournette has produced a successful season for fantasy managers

When you look at Fournette’s numbers they do not immediately jump out as amazing. He averaged just 58 rushing yards per game and scored 8 touchdowns through 14 contests. Yet, his value for fantasy managers has come in part due to his work in the receiving game. Fournette has 69 receptions for 454 yards and 2 TDs.

That amounts to Fournette being the fourth-best RB for fantasy this season in half-PPR formats. He has scored 221.1 fantasy points at an average of 15.8 per game, the seventh-best mark in the league. Fournette has scored 10 or more fantasy points in each of his last six games and 10 of his last 11. After a rocky start, he has been a dynamite fantasy option this season.

What options do fantasy managers have now?

The hope was that Ronald Jones might be the ideal fill-in for fantasy managers. He was widely available in shallower formats, and managers could have added him if not already rostered as a handcuff. However, the addition of Bell complicates matters somewhat for Jones’ fantasy value.

Bell might only play a small role, but his presence, combined with that of Ke’Shawn Vaughn, is a reason for fantasy managers to think twice. All told, Jones should be a reliable option to replace Fournette in your fantasy lineup. Nevertheless, if Jones is unavailable, you may have to look outside of the Buccaneers’ backfield.

There are some intriguing options available on waiver wires heading into Week 16. Duke Johnson starred for Miami on Sunday, and the team signed him to the roster for the rest of the year. There are injury concerns for Joe Mixon, opening up opportunities for Samaje Perine. Additionally, Justin Jackson could have value for the Chargers with Austin Ekeler on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

If you lost Fournette this week, these options are a band-aid. Moreover, fantasy managers will be left scrambling with waivers set to run just hours after the news breaks. The beauty of fantasy is that there is nearly always gold to be found at the RB position at this time in the season.

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN

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