Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette injured his hamstring in a Week 15 loss to the New Orleans Saints and hasn’t played since. He was placed on the injured reserve, forcing him to miss multiple games. Is Fournette playing against the Philadelphia Eagles on Wild Card Weekend, and what can fantasy football managers expect from the Tampa Bay backfield?
Update 01/16/22: The Buccaneers have officially announced that Leonard Fournette would be inactive for their game against the Eagles. To see the complete list of inactives, make sure to check out our NFL Wild Card Round Inactives.
Leonard Fournette’s 2021 production
Fournette has enjoyed an outstanding 2021 campaign with Tampa Bay. Over 14 games, he posted 812 yards and 8 touchdowns on 180 carries. He has flashed tremendous versatility, adding 69 receptions for 454 yards and 2 touchdowns on 84 targets.
Fournette started the season splitting snaps with several other running backs. Ronald Jones and Giovani Bernard found reps early, but it wasn’t long before Fournette took over the backfield.
He showcased his elite upside and versatility against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 12. In that game, he ran for 100 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also added 7 receptions for 31 yards and 1 score on 8 targets.
Fournette’s ability to contribute in any type of game script made him a precious piece for Tampa Bay’s offense.
How would his absence affect the Buccaneers’ offense?
Tampa Bay already ruled Jones out, so if Fournette misses as well, the Bucs will likely employ a running-back-by-committee approach. Le’Veon Ball, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, and Giovani Bernard would all play roles this weekend.
Vaughn has worked as Tampa Bay’s early-down back, and that’s likely to continue. He hasn’t recorded more than 10 carries in any game, though. The key for him is that he scored in two of his last three games, and Vaughn could continue to see goal-line work for Tampa Bay.
Bernard had an actual role in the Bucs’ passing offense at times this season. He was activated from the injured reserve earlier in the week, and he’ll likely work as the passing-down option. Although his role might not be massive, Bernard should see plenty of snaps as Tampa Bay focuses on their passing attack rather than their rushing game.
Bell likely won’t play a big role, but he could steal a few snaps from the others throughout this game.
Will Leonard Fournette play vs. the Eagles this week?
Fournette’s been dealing with a hamstring injury since a Week 15 matchup against the Saints. The Buccaneers placed him on IR after that, thus forcing him to miss the remainder of the regular season.
Earlier in the week, Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians was optimistic that Fournette would return for the Wild Card round. He was designated for return on Wednesday, but he didn’t test well enough to return against the Eagles. As a result, the Bucs did not activate Fournette from the IR and officially ruled him out for this weekend.
Are fantasy points available vs. Philadelphia?
Philadelphia is allowing 18.2 fantasy points per game to running backs this season, which ranks 13th in the NFL. Although fantasy points are available, this isn’t a situation to target.
There isn’t one clear-cut option for Tampa Bay, as any of these running backs could find snaps. They’re probably going to steal opportunities from each other, and none of them come with enough upside to truly consider using. Tampa Bay’s backfield should be avoided this weekend.