The illustrious wide receiver Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons will be taking the Dirty Bird to the Music City. Will the 32-year old wideout make a dent for your fantasy team by swapping Matt Ryan for Ryan Tannehill? What does this mean for Calvin Ridley, who becomes the de facto #1 target in Atlanta? And how can you profit off this in the early fantasy football season? Join me after the jump and learn why you’ll be moaning over Julio Jones.
Julio Jones is one of the top wide receivers for fantasy football, and he’s been producing at elite levels for years. Here’s how he fared in full-season play over the past few years (data courtesy of Rudy Gamble’s Fantasy Football Player Pages, which you can access by searching a player’s name in the search field at the top of the page)
|Team||Age||G||Snaps||Snp %||Tm Tgt %||Rec/ Tgt||STD PTS||PPR PTS||STD Pos Rank||PPR Pos Rank||STD Per Game Rank||PPR Per Game Rank|
In short, Jones is usually durable (missed 10 games in 5 years), is taking a ton of snaps (70% rate for 4/5 years), and is taking the targets (24% share for 4/5 years). And even in his injury-plagued 2020, Julio Jones still ranked in the top 15 wide-receivers on a per-game basis. Wow! Are you moaning yet? Hopefully, it’s not a reaction to the marshmallow fluff I put in your coffee. I’ve got a sweet tooth!
Julio Jones in Tennessee
Jones becomes a 1A/1B wideout combination with A.J. Brown for the Tennessee Titans now. The obvious implication for each receiver is that there is more competition. Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel has been coaching for 3 years, and has directed the team to near-dead-last rankings in pass attempts among NFL teams. Vrabel is, without a doubt, a run-first head coach; his rushing attempts and total yardage have been in the top 10 in every year he’s been a head coach. This limits the upside of both A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. Fortunately for each player, both Coach Vrabel and quarterback Ryan Tannehill are incredibly efficient with the passing game. The Titans have ranked 8th overall in passing TDs the past two years and 7th in net yards per attempt. A.J. Brown finished in the top 15 wide receivers despite having only 70 catches on a bit over 100 targets.
This is A.J. Brown’s target profile, available at his Fantasy Football Player Page up in the search bar. The bold green demonstrates where Brown was a leader, and you can see that Brown was dominant around the sticks, where he typically got just beyond the first down marker. Is this significant to Julio? Yes, because take a look at A.J. Brown’s 2020 counterpart Corey Davis, who is now with the New York Jets.
You can see by the dark green that Corey Davis was similarly going for deeper passes. This means that the Titans pass game — while not prolific in attempts — was above average in its average depth of target to wide receivers. According to PlayerProfiler, Titans QB Ryan Tannehill ranked third overall in the NFL in true completion percentage, 4th overall in adjusted yards per pass attempt, and second overall in fantasy points per dropback. In other words, Tannehill is an efficient signal-caller who isn’t afraid to throw deeper than the average quarterback.
Julio then walks into an efficient situation where his older body won’t be required to take as many pass attempts to accumulate usable stats. Ryan Tannehill and Mike Vrabel’s system will help him take off the load, and the threat of A.J. Brown — who probably is the fantasy 1A to Julio’s 1B — will open up Julio to take advantage of weaker coverages. Corey Davis garnered only 92 targets last year, and Titans tight end Jonnu Smith — now with the Patriots — took another 65 targets.
Julio Jones enters a situation where he can feasibly take 100 targets on the season and accumulate enough yardage and touchdowns to produce top 15 wide receiver stats per game, with a small possibility of breaching the top 10 wideouts. A healthy Julio will likely see the lowest outcome as somewhere around WR30, which means that he’s a safe pick as your WR2 in most formats. He’ll be best deployed in best-ball and DFS formats, where the Titans can take advantage of matchups in the secondary. Jones might be a headache to own in head-to-head formats, where he might disappear due to gameplan. Dynasty managers would be served well to let him accumulate value before pursuing a trade because his value is low coming off an injury-riddled season.