The Case For Julio Jones
There are a lot of really good WRs with really good matchups this week. Just to name a few, we have Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, Jeremy Maclin, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb. Each of these guys are likely to be great next week. But the guy off everyone’s radar who could be better than all of them is Julio Jones, who’s coming off a bye week and has went 5 straight games without a TD. Jones may not have had the kind of success this season that some may have expected (me in particular), but the reality is Jones is one of the best fantasy WRs in the league, even if we haven’t seen it so far.
Tony Gonzalez Retirement and Roddy White’s Decline
One of the biggest factors that causes me to project Jones as one of the best fantasy WRs in the league is the makeup of the Falcons passing offense this year. The last year Jones played a full season was 2012, where he posted 79 receptions for nearly 1200 yards and 10 TDs, barely behind some of the top WRs in the league in only his second year. In that year, Gonzalez had 93 receptions for 930 yards and 8 TDs. Similarly, Roddy White had a typical 92 catch, 1351 yard, 7 TD season. The production in the Falcons passing offense was prolific and it got spread around to White, Gonzalez, and Jones pretty equally.
Gonzalez is now retired, which has not hurt Matt Ryan’s production so far this season. Ryan is on pace for a 30 TD season, close to his career high in 2012 of 32 TDs, and is on pace for his usual yards and pass attempts. So Gonzalez’ catches, yards, and TDs are not disappearing. They are also not going to new starting TE Levine Toilolo, who has only 15 receptions in 8 games this season. But they aren’t going to go to Roddy White either. Often injured the past two seasons, White has seen a significant per game decline in production. The past two seasons in 20 games White has 96 catches for 1130 yards and 6 TDs, which is a per game pace of 4.8 catches, 56.5 yards, and .3 TDs, far behind his per game numbers in 2012 of 5.75 catches, 84.4 yards, and approximately .5 TDs.
The Falcons Basically Only Pass
Matt Ryan probably wouldn’t be called an elite quarterback, but he passes like one. Last year Ryan was 2nd in the league in pass attempts per game with 40.7, and is 5th in the league this year with 38.1. I discussed in this article how pass attempts per game are one of the main drivers of WR fantasy production. This certainly bodes well for Jones. If you look at our Pass Point Share projections, we see than the Falcons also have a good matchup against the Buccaneers, who teams have been very inclined to pass against, and also have given up the most fantasy points to WRs this year. The previous matchup certainly looks favorable as well. Jones had 9 catches for over 170 yards and 2 TDs against the Buccaneers earlier this season in a 56-14 blowout.
The Touchdowns Will Come
Jones is on pace for both career highs in receptions and yards, but is only on pace for 6 TDs, which would be a career low for a full season. I don’t think this is an issue with Jones, but rather the result of misfortune in a small sample size. Jones is only 25 years old, and in his first two seasons averaged 10 TDs per 16 games. As shown in this article, a WRs ability to score TDs is highly dependent on their size. Jones certainly has the size at 6’3″ and 220 pounds to get TDs, so I think there’s a lot of reason to expect him to revert back to a 10 TD or more pace for him going into the rest of the season.
- NFL Week 10 features a lot of strong WR plays, but one of the strongest and least used will be Julio Jones, who has went through a cold streak and is coming off a bye week.
- Tony Gonzalez retirement and Roddy White’s decline should contribute to Jones’ production.
- The Falcons are an extremely pass heavy offense even though they do not have an elite QB.
- Julio Jones’ low TD total is likely flukey, and we should expect a pace of 10 TDs or more for the rest of the season.