Ronald Jones Fantasy Outlook: Should I start him Week 1 vs. Dallas?

    Ronald Jones is a risky player for fantasy, leaving many to ask, "Should I start him this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?"

    Ronald Jones has been a frustrating player for fantasy football managers for a few years now. It seems like whenever he should have a good game, he fails to deliver. This has caused many fantasy managers to ask a familiar question in Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season, “Should I start Ronald Jones?”

    Should I start Ronald Jones in Week 1?

    During the 2020 season, Jones rushed 192 times for 978 yards and 7 touchdowns in 14 games. That’s 5.1 yards per carry, which isn’t bad at all. He also caught 28 of 42 targets for another 165 yards and a touchdown. That was good enough to put Jones at RB20 for the year, even though he missed two games. Still, there are some question marks.

    Leonard Fournette dominated down the stretch in 2020

    The biggest factor in whether or not you should start Jones is Leonard Fournette. In 2020, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers added Fournette to their roster after the Jacksonville Jaguars cut him in the preseason. As he got up to speed, the team leaned more on Jones to carry the workload. Once Fournette settled in, however, it felt as though the team leaned on him more.

    Fournette’s success is definitely worrisome for Jones managers. Fournette finished the year as RB35 in PPR scoring, but he really hit his stride in the weeks during the fantasy playoffs. He scored 21.5 points in Week 15 and 15.6 in Week 16. In contrast, Jones didn’t even play these weeks — so all eyes were on Fournette in fantasy. Past that, Fournette also did well in the NFL playoffs, earning him the nickname “Playoff Lenny.”

    Fantasy managers are a fickle bunch and often remember the most recent thing that happened. This is a large part of why Jones managers are worried. Fournette did well in the Wild Card game and again in Super Bowl LV against the Kansas City Chiefs. Across the postseason, Fournette outscored all other running backs with 86.8 PPR points. That kind of production is hard to ignore.

    The leash for Jones could be short

    Fast forward to 2021, and it’s hard to predict exactly what the Bucs have in mind against the Dallas Cowboys for Week 1. The team rode the hot hand last year and won the title, so it’s hard to imagine they make a big change. On the flip side, Fournette isn’t getting any younger, and Jones did well to start the season last year as well.

    Add to this the fact that the Bucs added RB Giovani Bernard this offseason, and Jones’ outlook gets even murkier. Bernard is questionable for Week 1, which might benefit Jones somewhat, but I’m not sure it’s enough. If Jones misses a block and Tom Brady goes down, he could be relegated to the bench pretty quickly as well.

    Inevitably, Jones could get the start but still not be worth starting in fantasy. He could get a few carries and underwhelm enough to let the team switch to Fournette. Then again, Jones could also break off a 90-yard run in the first quarter and be a terrific option. Hindsight is 20/20, but foresight is not. Those big plays are hard to predict.

    Ronald Jones is a risky play for Week 1

    On the teams where I have Jones rostered, it comes down to who else is available. Jones is currently ranked as RB28, according to FantasyPros Expert Consensus Ranking (ECR). This puts him just outside the RB2 category for Week 1. Jones is not a bad flex play in most leagues, but he’s not someone I would recommend relying heavily on to start your season.

    If you start Jones, I would recommend starting other players on your roster with a higher floor. Jones is a very risky play for Week 1, so I’d want to have safer options at my other positions to feel comfortable putting him in my lineup. Obviously, not every roster has the right mix of risk and safe, so it’s up to you on how you want to play it.

    Luckily, the Buccaneers vs. Cowboys game is Thursday night, so if you do start Jones and he fails to impress, you have time to try to pivot to make up ground before Sunday’s games kick off. Lastly, if you do decide to start Jones, make sure he’s in one of your RB slots so you can have some flexibility on your roster. The last thing you want is for Jones to tank your week while taking up a Flex spot to do so.

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