The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had some success drafting running backs early in the past 25 years. Could Ronald Jones follow in the rookie footsteps former Buccaneers Rookie of the Years Warrick Dunn and Cadillac Williams?
In the first or second round for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have drafted some quality players that burst on to the scene in their first years. In his first season, Warrick Dunn had 1440 total yards and seven touchdowns. Cadillac Williams had 1259 total yards and six touchdowns. And while he didn’t win rookie of the year Doug Martin had an excellent season his rookie year racking up 1926 total yards and twelve total touchdowns. While Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were duking it out for rookie of the year that season Martin quietly had one of the most productive rookie seasons for running backs in NFL history.
Ronald Jones II, while not taken in the first round, was the sixth pick in the second round. The Buccaneers are also without a true lead back and he could take over that position from day one. While the PAC 12 is not the NFL “Rojo” averaged 1307 total yards and fourteen touchdowns in his three seasons. In his junior year, he produced astounding numbers with 1737 total yards and 20 touchdowns.
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While he didn’t have a great 40-yard dash during the combine he was not 100% healthy. If you watch his highlights Jones has explosive speed and playmaking ability. He does need to work on his pass catching and pass blocking if he wants to become a three-down player. Where Jones didn’t have a ton of receptions in college, that could’ve been more on play calling than his fault, the best way to prove to the coaches he could be a reliable receiver is to make plays in practice and games. Koetter has come out and stated he has the explosiveness but as a rookie, he needs to see the improvements to the weaker parts of his game in practice if he is to be the lead back. As Peyton Barber currently sits atop the depth chart his position could easily be taken over. Many fans of the Bucs would like to see Jones as the lead back and Barber as the compliment. We will see what happens in training camp and the preseason with the regular season less than 100 days away.
As for his odds to win rookie of the year, Ronald Jones currently sits at +3300 according to oddsshark.com. For those that don’t understand gambling that well, this means he has 33/1 odds or if you bet $100 you would win $3300. Ahead of him sits five other running backs including two that were picked after him in Derrius Guice and Royce Freeman. Saquon Barkley, also known as Saquads, is the runaway favorite to win rookie of the year with +140. The next closest player to him is quarterback Baker Mayfield at +400. For him to win the rookie of the year he will need a lot of luck. There are five quarterbacks likely to make some sort of an impact this season however all are currently on bad teams or behind a veteran on the depth chart. This should help his garner some votes if none of them play in enough games or struggle to perform on a bad team.
His toughest competition will be beating out the other offensive skill positions. All first-round running backs, Saquon Barkley, Sony Michel, and Rashaad Penny have better odds. While Barkley is clearly the biggest threat to win, Michel is on the Patriots and could be lost in their running back depth chart at any point and Rashaad Penny has to try and play behind the Seahawks abysmal offensive line. The biggest threat at wide receiver, in my opinion, is the new division rival Calvin Ridley of the Atlanta Falcons. Ridley has Julio Jones to be the focus of other defenses so he could have a highly productive year on an already explosive offense. Other players with the same odds to Ronald Jones are Christian Kirk, Courtland Sutton, DJ Moore, and James Washington, all receivers but none of which are the clear number one on their individual teams. Derrius Guice could be a player to watch if he beats out Chris Thompson for more touches.
I believe if Ronald Jones can become the lead back for the Buccaneers at the start of the season he has a better chance than any other running back not named Saquon Barkley. While if one of the five quarterbacks selected in the first round has a decent season they are likely going to be the clear choice. Ronald Jones was an insanely talented college running back and could have a very productive first NFL season. Will it be enough to beat out the top talent taken in this draft? Alvin Kamara won it as a third-round pick last season, so anything can happen.
Do you think Ronald Jones can win offensive rookie of the year? Sound off on our Twitter and Facebook if you think he has a legit chance.