Fantasy Index

header banner img
Win here.

Around the NFL

Leonard Fournette

Bucs expected to release starting running back

There was a report yesterday that the Bucs are planning to release Leonard Fournette. This is not a surprise, with the team seemingly looking at rebuilding type year. (At the moment, 2021 second-rounder Kyle Trask would be the starting quarterback.) Good news for Rachaad White, who could be Tampa Bay's starting running back next season, and uncertainty for Fournette himself.

Fournette has had a nice little run in Tampa Bay, a key part of the team's Super Bowl championship after the 2020 season and a strong three-down back in 2021. But it's debatable whether that player is there anymore. Fournette averaged just 3.5 yards per attempt last season. He battled injuries, which were probably a factor, but the years and mileage may have taken their toll.

Bucs GM Jason Licht said recently that he believes Fournette is still a three-down back in this league, and maybe some other team will agree. Would be interesting to see him with another playoff hopeful that doesn't have a clear lead running back. But a quote from that report -- "Fournette is only 28 years old and has plenty in the tank" -- is harder to take seriously. Running backs putting up good numbers at that age are increasingly rare.

It didn't use to be that way, but now it's fair to say that 28 is the new 30. Squeezing another strong season out of a 28-year-old or older running back is less likely than it used to be.

I pulled all the 28-plus running backs out of our big file since 2000. From 2000 to 2012, there were 95 running backs at least that age who put up top-25 numbers (PPR scoring); about 8 per season. Curtis Martin, Eddie George, LaDainian Tomlinson; those guys were thriving at that age.

But in the last 10 years -- 2013 to 2022 -- Just 51 running backs have put up top-25 numbers (5 per year). And it's been a steady downward trend each year. Thirty-one of those seasons (0ver 60 percent) came in 2013, 2014 and 2015. It's been especially lean lately. In the last five years, only 8 running backs aged 28 or older have finished with top-25 numbers (less than 2 per season). Those are the odds working against Fournette being a significant back in 2023.

2022Derrick Henry, Ten.2834915383339813308.84
2022Aaron Jones, G.B.282131121593957254.67
2022Jerick McKinnon, K.C.30722915651210198.320
2021Cordarrelle Patterson, Atl.301536185254811234.610
2021Melvin Gordon, Den.282039182821310201.118
2020David Johnson, Hou.29147691333148181.521
2019Mark Ingram, Balt.3020210182624715246.510
2018Adrian Peterson, Was.332511042202088193.019
2017Mark Ingram, N.O.2823011245841612284.06
2017LeSean McCoy, Buff.292871138594488265.67
2017Frank Gore, Ind.34261961292454173.620
2017DeMarco Murray, Ten.29184659392667173.521
2017Marshawn Lynch, Oak.31207891201517166.223
2016LeSean McCoy, Buff.2823412675035614298.34
2016DeMarco Murray, Ten.2829312875337712295.95
2016LeGarrette Blount, N.E.30299116173818234.99
2016Frank Gore, Ind.332631025382778216.212
2016Bilal Powell, NYJ28131722583885199.017
2016Matt Forte, NYJ31218813302638185.621
2016Darren Sproles, Phil.3394438524274162.524
2015Adrian Peterson, Min.3032714853022211266.72
2015Danny Woodhead, S.D.3098336807559243.13
2015DeAngelo Williams, Pitt.322009074036711235.45
2015Matt Forte, Chi.30218898443897216.78
2015Darren McFadden, Dall.282391089403283201.713
2015Frank Gore, Ind.32260967342677199.414
2015James Starks, G.B.29148601433925172.321
2015Rashad Jennings, NYG30195863292964168.922
2015Jonathan Stewart, Car.2824298916997166.823
2014Matt Forte, Chi.29266103810280810350.63
2014Marshawn Lynch, Sea.2828013063736717306.34
2014Arian Foster, Hou.2826012463832713277.65
2014Jamaal Charles, K.C.2820610334029114256.47
2014Justin Forsett, Balt.292351266442638246.98
2014Joique Bell, Det.28223860343228200.213
2014Fred Jackson, Buff.33141525665013188.616
2014Frank Gore, S.F.312551106111115162.721
2014Darren Sproles, Phil.3157329403878159.622
2014Ahmad Bradshaw, Ind.2890425383008158.523
2013Matt Forte, Chi.2828913397459412341.32
2013Reggie Bush, Det.282231006545067247.27
2013Chris Johnson, Ten.2827910774234510244.29
2013Adrian Peterson, Min.2827912662917111238.710
2013Fred Jackson, Buff.322068904738710234.711
2013Danny Woodhead, S.D.28106429766058227.412
2013Pierre Thomas, N.O.29147549775135213.216
2013Frank Gore, S.F.302761128161419196.918
2013Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac.28234803433145189.119
2013Darren Sproles, N.O.3053220716044177.423
2013Rashad Jennings, Oak.28163733362926174.524
2013DeAngelo Williams, Car.30201843263334167.625

Fournette won't get a big contract. Perhaps a contender -- or team that believes it's a contender -- signs him to start, but they'll have someone else to take a good chunk of the work, as the Bucs did with White a year ago (especially as the season wore on). Whatever the case, it's a young man's game, especially at running back. Fantasy starters at 28 or 29; good luck. A cautionary note for the three guys who did it last year (Derrick Henry, Aaron Jones and Jerick McKinnon, who was more receiver than runner anyway), too.

--Andy Richardson

Fantasy Index