ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 15: Julio Jones #11 and Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons celebrate after Jones scored a 29-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Georgia Dome on December 15, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
It's not as preposterous as it sounds on its face.
For one thing, let's acknowledge something: Calvin Johnson is, at least from a talent standpoint, a borderline Hall of Fame wide receiver. He's basically unstoppable when healthy, and I was wrong, all those years ago, to criticize former Falcoholic punching bag and AJC columnist Terence Moore for saying the Falcons should have traded up and drafted him. While I think my logic was sound, it's hard to argue that he wouldn't have been worth it.
There's a pretty obvious comp for Jones, who showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie while struggling through nagging injuries: Lions superstar Calvin Johnson. Megatron caught 48 passes for 756 yards in 10 starts as a rookie; Jones had 54 catches for 959 yards in 13 starts. If you adjust those figures for the number of starts each player had, they roughly resemble each other; Megatron averaged 75.6 yards per start during his rookie year, and Jones averaged 73.8. In his second season, Johnson stayed healthy and had 78 catches for 1,331 receiving yards, with 12 scores.
Intrigued? Let's hit the jump and discuss this further.
First off, I wouldn't tell you with a straight face that Julio Jones is going to match Calvin Johnson's numbers in his second year in the NFL. While Johnson played with an inferior quarterback, he was also easily the team's best option in the passing game and had relatively few receiving options to compete with.
Jones, on the other hand, has Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez to compete with, not to mention Harry Douglas. But he's also an incredibly talented receiver, and while 78 catches would be a small stretch, the yardage and scores would not necessarily be. If he managed 75 catches, his 17.8 yards per catch would bring him up to CJ's numbers, and his imposing size and speed make him an ideal red zone option.
It's way too early to say if Jones will be as good as Megatron, and again, I'm not foolish enough to make that prediction. Barnwell makes an interesting point, though, and it's not completely outlandish to suggest his sophomore season with the Falcons might be as good as Johnson's second year with the Lions.
Do you agree?