Setting the Stage
Julio Jones was born in Foley, Alabama and played football for Foley High School. He was an outstanding wide receiver for three seasons, totaling 194 receptions for 3,287 yards and 43 TDs. He also rushed for 3 TDs and scored another 6 TDs on special team plays. At the time, he had the three highest receptions for a season, placing first with 51 as a sophomore and then raising the record to 68 as a junior, and finally up to 75 as a senior.
He received abundant awards for his high school play and was rated as a five-star recruit ranked as the #2 player nationally at ESPN and #4 at Rivals and the top wide receiver by both. He was measured at 6-foot 4 and weighed 215 pounds and ran a 4.45 40-yard dash.
He was very highly recruited and took visits to Oklahoma, Florida, Florida State, and Alabama before finally deciding to stay in-state and play for the Crimson Tide. He continued to excel at Alabama, where he was the first true freshman wide receiver to start in the season opener, catching 4 passes for 28 yards and a TD. He started all 40 games of his three-year career, totaling 179 receptions for 2,653 yards and 15 TDs. He also rushed for 139 yards, including 135 yards as a junior on only 8 carries.
Jones excelled again at the 2011 NFL Combine, where he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash on a 6-foot 3 frame weighing 220, with a 38 ½” vertical. He was the second wide receiver drafted, taken at #6 by the Atlanta Falcons who traded 5 draft picks to Cleveland to move up for Jones. He signed a four-year contract for $16.2 Million, all guaranteed.
He played well for the team as a rookie, but did not catch his first TD pass until his sixth game, which was in week 9 against Indianapolis, when he caught 3 passes for 131 yards and 2 TDs. He finally displayed the much anticipated domination that he is capable of over the final four weeks of the season catching 6 TD passes and totaling 20 receptions for 393 yards. Jones completed his rookie season catching the third most passes with 54 in 13 games, behind only A. J. Green (65 in 15 games) and Greg Little with 61 in 16 games. Jones led all rookies with 8 TDs and finished second in yards with 959, behind only Green with 1,057.
Jones built on his outstanding rookie year in 2012, catching 79 passes for 1,198 yards and scoring 10 TDs and played in all 16 games. An unusual aspect of Jones’ 2012 season was the disparity of his production on away compared to home games. Jones caught 17 more passes for 308 more yard and 6 more TDs on the road.
His career statistics are provided below.
Looking Forward to 2013
There are not a lot of personnel changes among the offensive fantasy players heading into this season for the Falcons. They did replace their 30-year old lead running back, Michael Turner with the highly regarded free agent Steven Jackson. However it should be pointed out that Jackson is the same age entering this season that Turner was in 2012. Expectations are much higher for Jackson, who even though has been the work horse for the Rams over his career, seemingly has more quickness left than the departing Turner.
The second change and possibly the one that could impact the offense the most is the loss of two offensive linemen from 2012. Tyson Clabo, their starting right tackle was a cap casualty who was signed to a one-year deal with Miami. The Falcons’ starting center since 2000, Todd McClure retired. Even though the Falcons had 8 draft picks, they drafted no offensive linemen unless you count Levine Toilolo, the 4th round tight end out of Stanford. The loss of these two key players should be a concern for the Falcons’ offense, particularly early in the year.
- Julio Jones increased his targets and receptions by 0.8 per game in his second season
- Matt Ryan has improved his passing yardage, passing TDs, and ypa statistics for each of the past three seasons
- Julio Jones is one of the most dynamic wide receivers in the NFL
- Continued abundant options in the passing game for Ryan, but you have to think that Gonzalez will lose targets to Jones sometime, don’t you
- Offensive line losses could impact Ryan’s comfort and his ability to remain in the pocket
- Roddy White continues to produce at a high level limiting the number of targets for Jones
Even though Julio Jones is an outstanding wide receiver on a highly productive offense, he only ranked 19th in targets in the NFL in 2012. With a current ADP of WR5, he remains a little questionable to be selected that high. Ryan has extreme confidence in both White and Gonzalez and the Falcons added Steven Jackson, who is an excellent receiver out of the backfield.
Chris Wesseling on NFL.com provides Gil Brandt’s opinion on Julio Jones
"I think some people like strawberry ice cream and some people like vanilla. They're both pretty good," Brandt explained Wednesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "Some like red heads and some like blondes. I think if you took 10 people, probably six of the 10 would take Johnson, and four, including myself, would take Julio Jones. I just think the whole package, I like Julio a little bit better than Johnson." Asked to defend his opinion on the heels of Johnson breaking Rice's single-season record for receiving yards, Brandt cited Jones' stronger, more reliable hands in addition to his fluidity.
Dave Richard, senior fantasy writer for CBS Sports
Julio Jones told the Falcons' official team website that the game is slowing down for him, meaning that he understands what he has to do when a play is called without really thinking about it. He's working this offseason not only on being even more comfortable in the offense but by trying some new things and gaining some new techniques to help him this season. "He's got a bank in his brain that he can pull from," receivers coach Terry Robiskie said. "He's here every day. He sees it. He tries this. He tries that. This didn't work. That did work. When it works he stores it in the bank. If it didn't work he throws it away. I don't have to tell him on every play what to do."
Maurile Tremblay in his player comments
Julio Jones was more productive than Roddy White last season on fewer targets. Since Jones is clearly on the upswing and White may be on the downswing of his career, it would make more sense for Jones to get a larger share of the targets this season, and to improve on last year’s finish as the ninth-best fantasy WR.
TheDirtyWord in the Julio Jones Player Spotlight Thread
Now it’s true that he gets the benefit of playing across a bonafide #1 WR (according to everyone but Richard Sherman). But Jones has simply become a dominant force in two seasons and he may already be the best back of the end zone receiver in the NFL. The issue though is that because of the well-proportioned passing game in Atlanta, it’s tough to see him improving much on his 2012 numbers which while very very good (most definitely in WR1 territory) don’t contain the type of ceiling that a player like Dez Bryant has or even an Andre Johnson/Larry Fitzgerald (from a yardage perspective). That’s not to say that Jones won’t out produce any of those three. But I could see those three receivers coming with a 1400-1500 10 TD season. Jones I think is maxed out at 1300. He could make that up with 12 TD’s potentially given his proficiency working the end zone. But with Gonzalez and White, the Falcons don’t need to force it to Julio and so I can’t see him dominating red zone looks.
More from Steve Holloway:
Player Spotlight: Joe Flacco - June 12
Player Spotlight: C.J. Spiller - June 6
Player Spotlight: Ben Roethlisberger - June 6
Player Spotlight: Roddy White - July 17
Player Spotlight: Julio Jones - July 16
Player Spotlight: Pierre Garcon - July 10
Player Spotlight: DeMarco Murray - July 9
Player Spotlight: Vincent Jackson - August 8
Player Spotlight: Brandon Marshall - August 3
Player Spotlight: Ryan Mathews - July 31