Leonard Fournette’s appearance on the injury report will likely have given fantasy football managers something to think about this week. With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back being a midweek downgrade, Fournette’s status for Sunday’s game now appears to be in doubt. Let’s examine the latest news regarding Fournette’s injury and also what it means for the fantasy outlook of Rachaad White.
Leonard Fournette’s Injury Further Complicates the Buccaneers’ Backfield
The first indication we got that Fournette was not 100% for Week 14 came when the Buccaneers released their injury report on Thursday. Fournette had been added as a limited participant with a foot issue, which is not something we’ve seen him deal with previously.
Fournette had been on the injury report in Week 12 and Week 13 with a hip injury, but this appears to be a new situation. We did not get any clear indication from offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich or QB Tom Brady about the injury when they spoke to the media, and we’ll need to wait until head coach Todd Bowles speaks to the media again Friday to get an idea of the severity of Fournette’s injury.
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Fournette’s status on Friday’s injury report will also be key. If the Buccaneers’ RB is further downgraded to a non-participant, he’ll likely be ruled out or doubtful for Week 14. But if he remains limited, we’re likely looking at a questionable tag, although we did see Fournette listed as doubtful in Week 12 after being limited all week.
If Fournette can get back to being a full participant on Friday, that should bode well for him suiting up. The problem is that even if he does suit up, there’s no true guarantee over what that will mean for his usage in Week 14. This situation with his foot injury leaves fantasy managers with a lot of questions about Fournette this week, regardless of his final status.
Week 14 Fantasy Outlook for Fournette and Rachaad White
It was interesting to see the way that the Buccaneers utilized Fournette and White in Week 12. The two had an identical number of opportunities (17), with Fournette taking the lead in terms of snaps (60% vs. 41%). That usage pattern makes sense, with the Buccaneers utilizing both backs but having Fournette on the field more as veterans usually prove to be better pass blockers.
The problem is that while they are splitting touches, it limits each player’s fantasy upside. Last week against the Saints, Fournette managed 81 yards from scrimmage, with White finishing with 69. Fournette scored 11.1 fantasy points in half-PPR scoring, while White finished on 13.9 fantasy points due to the combination of touchdowns and fumbles he had.
The positive there is that even with the touches being split, both were able to finish the week as top 20 running backs, despite the reasonably tough matchup against New Orleans. But that matchup gets even tougher this week, facing the 49ers, who have been the best defense in the league against opposing RBs when it comes to fantasy points.
In the past four weeks, San Francisco has allowed an average of 8.23 fantasy points to the position. That is less than half the number allowed by the Saints in the same stretch. Additionally, the 49ers are allowing an average of just 12.41 fantasy points per game across the entire season. They haven’t allowed more than 15 fantasy points to RBs since Week 7.
That makes it tough to trust either White or Fournette this week if both are active. Splitting touches, it will be hard for both to be starting level options this week and could mean neither are. With six teams on a bye, however, the goal post to denote success is different.
Normally, in a 12-team league, the threshold is right around 10 fantasy points in half-PPR. But with so many teams on a bye, you’re really looking more for something like eight points.
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If Fournette is out, then White should lead the backfield, and it would be hard not to start him, even in the tough matchup. Just matching the 49ers’ average fantasy points allowed to the position in the last month would put him in starting consideration in 12-team leagues. Additionally, the Buccaneers have tended to use the RBs around the goal line, and that gives White a nice potential if he is the main back.
This backfield is a tough one to speculate on this week in season-long lineups and Underdog Fantasy Best Ball leagues. In 14-team leagues and deeper, you likely don’t have much choice but to start them both if they’re active.
There are simply too many holes on rosters this season to leave two players that could touch the ball 15 or more times on the bench. In those Best Ball leagues, White is an intriguing late-round selection in case Fournette ends up being either inactive or limited.
If Fournette is questionable entering the weekend, then fantasy managers should exercise a little caution. He could end up being on the lesser side of a committee if the Buccaneers look to limit his touches a bit. Unless you’re stacked at RB, it’s hard to bench him, but it should be a consideration, at least.