Ronald Jones or Ke’Shawn Vaughn Start/Sit Week 17: Can you trust either in your lineup?

Is Ronald Jones fantasy starter material, or is Ke'Shawn Vaughn the better fantasy option in Week 17? Let's look back to look ahead.

As this fantasy football season has gone along, managers have had to stay focused on practice reports and breaking news. Injuries and COVID designations have been flying fast and furious over the last few weeks. This has forced many managers to make desperate moves to win the title. This week, the decision is whether to start Buccaneers RBs Ronald Jones or Ke’Shawn Vaughn in fantasy. Let’s go through the data and see what we can find out.

Should you start Ronald Jones or Ke’Shawn Vaughn for fantasy in Week 17?

On the face of it, asking this question at all seems silly when your entire season is on the line. But here we are. Are either of these guys worth starting in the finals or should both stay on your bench?

Leonard Fournette getting hurt changed everything

Obviously, the only reason this question is even being asked is that the Buccanneers’ starting running back is on injured reserve. Leonard Fournette had effectively carried the team on his shoulders this year. He had rushed 180 times for 812 yards and 8 touchdowns on the ground in 14 games. He also added 69 catches on 84 targets for 454 yards and 2 more touchdowns through the air. He’s been everything the Bucs and fantasy managers have needed this year.

But in a Week 15 matchup against the New Orleans Saints, Fournette suffered a hamstring injury. The team eventually placed him on IR, forcing him to miss the last three weeks of the regular season. This opened the door for Jones and Vaughn to step up, and fantasy managers watched with bated breath.

Week 16’s frustrating production

With Fournette on IR, Tampa Bay was expected to lean on Jones as their lead back. Instead, they used both Jones and Vaughn in the backfield. Jones was still the clear RB1, rushing 20 times for 65 yards and a touchdown. He also caught 2 of 3 targets for another 16 yards.

Vaughn wasn’t silent though. He rushed 7 times for 70 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown run. Fantasy managers that started Jones were likely upset that Vaughn did well. With that kind of explosive output, it calls their Week 17 projections into question.

Jones finished as the RB12 on the week with 16.1 PPR points. Vaughn finished as RB21 with 13 PPR points of his own. This means that both were start-worthy for fantasy purposes. Both backs being start-worthy in fantasy makes predicting their Week 17 production a little more frustrating. Which one will be start-worthy when you need them most? Or will they eat into each other’s upside, making both busts in your lineup?

The Bucs face the New York Jets in Week 17

Whether you’ve held Jones on your bench all year or you snagged Vaughn off the waiver wire, you want to know what to do this week. The answer isn’t as obvious as you might hope, but here’s how I’m breaking it down.

The Jets are weak against the run

This season, the Jets are ranked 30th in rushing yards allowed and dead last in rushing attempts allowed. Teams aren’t afraid to run the ball on them. This is also likely due to the fact that New York’s defense has given up the most points to opposing teams with 449. Teams get up early and run the ball to protect their lead. It’s a tale as old as time.

This also means that whoever is running the ball against them should see plenty of opportunities to perform. Even though head coach Bruce Arians has publicly been anti-RoJo in the past, Jones should still see plenty of touches. If last week is any indication, he should still be the lead back of the two. That being said, Vaughn has earned a shot to go against this porous defense as well.

Is Ronald Jones a fantasy starter this week?

For me, given what we know, Jones is definitely a top-20 running back this week. I haven’t seen or heard anything that puts that into question for me. The signing of Le’Veon Bell was more of a depth move to replace the loss of Giovani Bernard than a real threat to Jones’ workload.

However, the much more present threat to Jones’ job is clearly Vaughn. I doubt I’d feel comfortable starting Vaughn in any format unless I was truly out of options. He has some great upside potential, but his floor is almost nothing.

If you’re a big underdog, and you like shooting for the moon, then sure — fire him up. Otherwise, I’m probably leaving Vaughn on the bench this week and letting my other running backs do their thing instead. He’s better than some, but not better than most, and this is not the week to get cute.

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