The Falcoholic tries to sort through the hype, the doom and gloom and everything in between to come up with reasonable expectations for some of the Falcons' young players. First up, the unstoppable Julio Jones.
It's impossible to write a post about Julio Jones without acknowledging that it's equally impossible to figure out Jones' ceiling. Receivers this big, this fast, this deadly after the catch and this capable of leaping six feet off the ground from a standing position just don't come along every day. I bet he can construct less awkward sentences, as well.
It's too easy to get caught up in the physical tools and predict 2012's numbers based solely on that physical ceiling. If Julio Jones played 16 games this year and dominated as he should, he'd probably catch 150 balls for 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. At least once a game, he'd rocket to the moon to brings rocks to the children of Georgia.
But considering that Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Jacquizz Rodgers and possibly Harry Douglas/Kerry Meier/whoever the Falcons sign will be contending for targets and will cut into his numbers. He may miss a game or two, because he is not an infalliable robot. And no one has ever reeled in 3,000 yards in a single season before, and the odds would seem to be against JJ being the first.
On the other side of the ledger, Jones is a truly special talent. Pro Football Focus compared the rookie campaigns of Jones and A.J. Green and found that Jones' YAC production was truly special, even if he's not yet as sure-handed as Green. Once he gets over his mild drop issues and refines his route-running a little bit, he's going to go from scary to fully terrifying.
So, all that considered, here's my best shot at a line for Jones in 2012, remembering that in 13 games in his rookie season he put up a 54 catch/959 yards/17.8 yards per catch/8 touchdown line.
80 catches, 1,300 yards, 16.3 yards per catch, 14 TDs
Maybe that's a smidge optimistic, but I think it's extremely attainable. I do think Jones will cut into White's numbers this year, and I think he'll establish himself as the #1 option in the passing game. And I think that his YPC will fall just a bit as Ryan finds him on shorter routes.
Now that I've said my piece, give us your projection.