Following a disappointing 2017 season (by his lofty standards), many people have written off Julio Jones as a top-tier fantasy wide receiver. For the past few years, he has been located toward the top of everyone’s draft boards, along the likes of Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, Deandre Hopkins, and AJ Green. But a series of lackluster performances has since had a negative impact on the public perception of Julio.
When you take a closer look at his stats, it’s easy to see that talk of Julio’s decline is greatly exaggerated. Last season he still had 88 receptions, for 1,444 receiving yards. The issue for him was the lowly three touchdowns he was able to haul in last year. That equates to a 16.4 yards per catch average. His total yards were second only to Antonio Brown among all NFL wide receivers. Yet, AB had nine touchdowns on the year, which completely changed the relative perception of their respective performances.
So what is the cause of the low touchdown total? Julio is still racking up catches and yards in bunches. Yes, the team would be wise to give him more opportunities, particularly in the red zone. After all, he is by far their best and most talented offensive playmaker. One could say that even without an added workload, he is due for a big uptick in touchdowns, as he somehow only caught three TDs all year.
Perhaps it took time for both Ryan and the entire Falcons offense to adjust to a new offense. First-year offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian could benefit from another full offseason of implementing his scheme. Theoretically, with all other factors remaining equal, there should be some progress across the board.
As a team, the Falcons were just 23rd in the league in red zone scoring percentage in 2017. That stat is alarming, coming off a Super Bowl season the year before. The coaching staff needs to realize that their best options to improve their efficiency from within the 20 yard line would be to lean on a keen combination of the running game and setting Julio up with advantageous matchups and routes.
One player who could help the offense improve is first round rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Widely viewed as the best overall receiver in this draft class, Calvin will be called upon to contribute early and often. If he is successful, he could take some of the defensive attention away from Jones. If Julio finds himself in one-on-one matchups, there aren’t too many defensive backs who can stop him.
It’s important to understand that had Julio caught anything more than six or seven touchdowns, his perceived value would be much higher. And that alone presents a great opportunity for fantasy owners, who can obtain great value by using a potentially second-round pick to draft one of the best and most explosive wide receivers in the game.