Fantasy football is a game that can be prepared for no matter what time of the year it is. Although the NFL season doesn’t start until the fall, the league has proven to be a year-round talking point with something going on at all times.
Today, we look at Atlanta’s metronome of steadiness - Julio Jones. The University of Alabama alum finished as the overall WR3 in PPR leagues last season (looking at default NFL.com scoring). He has finished in the top 7 among WRs in PPR scoring every year since 2014.
2019 Fantasy Production
Standard League Points: 175.1 (5th among WRs)
PPR Points: 274.1 (3rd among WRs)
Stats: 99 receptions, 1,394 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns
The Falcons have a few questions going into the 2020 season on the offensive side of the ball - can Kaleb McGary and Chris Lindstrom take that next step to organically enhance the unit? Can anyone step up at that left guard spot? How will Todd Gurley’s health hold up? The top of the WR depth chart, and Julio Jones in particular, is a spot where the Falcons have had no questions to ask for a number of years, however.
Jones was the beneficiary of a subpar team defense which resulted in a lot of passes being thrown as Atlanta attempted to claw themselves back into games. Matt Ryan was third in the league with 616 attempted passes, and Julio Jones saw 157 of those looks to rank second in the NFL in targets.
While the Falcons invested a lot into their defense this offseason, they’re not expected to be elite by any means this upcoming season, meaning that we could continue to see Matt Ryan near the top of the league’s attempted pass rankings once again. While that may not be the best thing for Atlanta in real life, it’ll be fantastic for Ryan and Jones’ fantasy prospects.
If you were forced to come up with a concern in regard to Jones’ fantasy value, that concern would be the continued emergence of Calvin Ridley, who has been a touchdown machine in his first two seasons (reaching the end zone 17 times in 29 games) and who was on pace for a 1,000-yard season if not for an injury which cost him the final quarter of the campaign in 2019.
Ridley will look to take a big step in his game in year three, and that could result in a Matt Ryan looking his way more often. While that could take some pressure off Jones, don’t expect opposing teams to ever really giving Number 11 extra attention due to his reputation and physical tools.
New tight end Hayden Hurst will inherit most of Austin Hooper’s suddenly vacated targets from last year, and Russell Gage will look to take a step next of his own as a reliable wide receiver.
Given good health, however, Jones is a virtual lock to continue his streak of top 7 finishes among WRs in the PPR format. He’s the best player at his position and the volume will be there even if it ends up being slightly less than it was in 2019 (which may not even be the case).
With Ridley’s emergence, Dirk Koetter still calling plays, and Julio entering his age-31 season, I’m not expecting the Alabama man to have a fantasy ceiling which matches his younger counterparts who have virtually no competition for targets on their teams. However, the steady floor should be enough to keep Jones in your consideration for selection with a premium draft pick.
There are better WR options to take in the first round (Michael Thomas continues to get a million short passing targets which benefit his PRR numbers; DaVante Adams is the only guy in Green Bay; Tyreke Hill has blazing speed and Patrick Mahomes in his corner) and running backs still dominate this game, but I’d feel good about snagging Jones as my team’s WR1 somewhere early in the second round.