Buccaneers' Depth Chart, RB Fantasy Outlook After Reported Le'Veon Bell Contract

Doric SamDecember 21, 2021

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - SEPTEMBER 26: Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Baltimore Ravens on the field during warm up before the game against Detroit Lions at Ford Field on September 26, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers reportedly added a veteran to their backfield after a significant injury to starting running back Leonard Fournette.

NFL.com's Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday that Tampa Bay is signing Le'Veon Bell pending a physical.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Buccaneers are "likely" to place Fournette on injured reserve after he suffered a hamstring injury Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Fournette, who was seen using crutches after his injury, would miss the remainder of the regular season.

So what does this mean for Tampa Bay's backfield from a fantasy standpoint?

With Fournette banged up, Ronald Jones II will likely move into the starting role to try to fill his shoes. Jones has played in all 14 games this season and has rushed for 337 yards and three touchdowns, a steep drop-off from the 978 yards and seven touchdowns he recorded last season in the same amount of games.

Jones has totaled over 50 rushing yards just twice this season with just one game with double-digit carries. He's also been a non-factor in the passing game, recording seven catches for 47 yards on nine targets.

Veteran Giovani Bernard served as Tampa Bay's third-down back, but he is also on injured reserve because of hip and knee injuries. Bernard provided strong production as a receiver out of the backfield with three touchdown receptions. Bell should be able to fill a similar role.

At his peak, Bell was one of the most versatile running backs in the NFL. He made a name for himself as a dual-threat option for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but since leaving the team, he's seen a sharp decline in production in his stints with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs.

Bell played five games for the Baltimore Ravens this year and ran the ball 31 times for 83 yards and two touchdowns. His average of 2.7 yards per carry is a career low. But with newfound opportunity in the Buccaneers' high-powered offense, Bell could have the chance to prove he's still a capable NFL running back.

It's hard for fantasy managers to trust either Jones or Bell, but Jones is the safer bet because of his familiarity with the offense. As the likely starter, Jones should see the same amount of volume as Fournette. Bell will likely not be used as a workhorse back, as he will need some time to acclimate himself to the team.

What might frustrate fantasy managers is how Tampa Bay uses its running backs in goal-line situations. Even when Jones was the team's starter in 2019 and 2020, he would frequently relinquish goal-line carries to Fournette. Bell could be utilized as the Buccaneers' short-yardage back, which would open up some scoring opportunities.

Consider Jones to be an low-end RB2/flex option, while Bell is a boom-or-bust player whose value would be determined by whether he finds the end zone.