There was a story over the weekend that Bruce Arians plans to have Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones split time. The Bucs also have Giovani Bernard, and maybe still have hopes for last year's 3rd-rounder Keshawn Vaughn. Is there value to be squeezed out of this backfield?
If Arians sticks to what he's saying now, certainly, it doesn't look good. Bernard seems likely to play in at least some passing situations, so in PPR scoring, he will be the most valuable back in some games. It could be a hot-hand type of approach with Fournette and Jones, which was aggravating late last year; burned people who started Jones in a couple of games when he may or may not have been healthy.
The question is whether Arians is a true committee backfield coach, and the history is debatable. I pulled out the numbers for his two Tampa Bay backfields, five Arizona backfields, the year in Indianapolis when he was the offensive coordinator and interim head coach, and his five years as offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh.
In those 13 seasons (minus 2018, which he sat out of for health reasons), Arians has had 7 top-2o PPR backs, and five top-30 players at the position (so also starters in most leagues). His last year in Arizona, 2017, was an injury-marred disaster for the backfield, and 2012 in Indianapolis wasn't good either. But in every other season, he's had a viable -- at worst -- starting running back.
Table shows Arians' top 2 running backs the last 13 years, with top-20 in bold and top-30 finishes in italics.
|BRUCE ARIANS RUNNING BACKS, 2007-2020|
In some years, of course, he had much more than viable. David Johnson had two top-7 finishes, and Rashard Mendenhall was 11th one year.
Neither Jones nor Fournette is going to be the workhorse that Johnson was. Adding Bernard just clouds things further.
But I don't think it'd be accurate to say that Arians is against the idea of using one, featured running back. Might need an injury for that to be the case in Tampa Bay, but these players can't just be dismissed. Possibly one emerges as the clear No. 1 early in the season, and goes on to be a quality starter in one of the league's best offenses.