We’re in the depths of the offseason here at The Falcoholic, and there has been little to nothing in the way of interesting news in ages. So, we’ll have to make some content of our own in the meantime. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you a new Player Profile series where we’ll take a look at each of the players on Atlanta’s roster. I’ll break down their measurables, past production, and try to project their 2020 season with the Falcons.
We’ll get things started with the projected starters. After taking stock of the TE position, we now move on to WR. One of the strongest position groups on the roster, the Falcons retain most of their corps from 2019 in star Julio Jones, the up-and-coming Calvin Ridley, and the surprisingly productive Russell Gage.
Today we take a closer look at Julio Jones, quite possibly the best WR in the NFL and the biggest star on Atlanta’s roster.
WR Julio Jones
Contract: $20.4M cap hit in 2020, under contract through 2023 ($18.47M APY)
Career Production: 126 games played, 125 games started | 797 receptions, 12125 yards, 15.2 YPR, 57 TD | 19 carries, 118 yards, 6.2 YPC
2019 Production: 15 games played, 15 games started | 99 receptions, 1394 yards, 14.1 YPR, 6 TD
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 1st round (#6 overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2011-present)
When you think of the Falcons, you probably picture one of two players: QB Matt Ryan, or WR Julio Jones. While both are far and away the greatest to ever play their position for Atlanta, Julio Jones is probably the closer of the two to being the greatest ever at his position period. For the majority of his career, Julio has been arguably the best WR in the NFL, and the Falcons have been extremely lucky to have him.
Julio’s blend of size, athleticism, and physicality is unique, as is his fiery on-field attitude and no-nonsense off-field persona. The Falcons traded significant resources to secure Julio in the top-10 of the 2011 NFL Draft, and he rewarded them immediately with an exceptional rookie season where he put up 54 receptions for 959 yards and 8 TDs in just 13 games. For the record, 2011 remains Julio’s most productive season on a per-touch basis.
Julio followed up that season with his true coming-out party, posting 79 receptions for 1198 yards and 10 TDs as the Falcons nearly reached the Super Bowl in 2012. After an injury-shortened 2013, Julio has been the model of consistency for a Falcons team that has been extremely volatile outside of the passing game. Since 2014, Julio has averaged 1564 yards per season and has missed just 4 games. If there’s one criticism of Julio, it would be his lack of high-end TD production: he’s averaged just 6.3 TDs per season over the course of his career, reaching double digits in the regular season just once (10 in 2012).
Now entering his age 31 season, Julio has shown no signs of slowing down. While his play likely peaked during the 2015-2016 seasons, he should continue playing at a top-3 WR level in 2020 and could continue to play at a top-10 level for the next 2-3 years. Quite frankly, Julio is such a special player that I wouldn’t rule out him playing at a WR1/2 level late into his 30s. Even if he loses a step, his physicality and veteran savvy are remain near the top of the league.
Projection: Julio will remain one of the NFL’s best WRs in 2020 and should produce as such, though just how well he performs has more to do with the play of the offensive line and playcalling of Dirk Koetter than his skills. Expect another season of around 100 receptions, 1400 yards, an 6-8 TDs for the star WR, who continues to chase the all-time NFL records at the position.