Why Julio Jones Could Slip Out of Fantasy Football WR1 Territory in 2020 - Roto Street Journal
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Why Julio Jones Could Slip Out of Fantasy Football WR1 Territory in 2020

With another NFL season around the corner (hopefully), it means it’s another year of fantasy football owners drafting Julio Jones as an elite receiver. And why not? He finished as the PPR WR3 in 2019 and has been a fantasy stud since entering the league. But now, at age 31, Julio’s inevitable decline demands we look elsewhere to fill the top of our fantasy receiving core.

So, this is my first ever published article, but c’mon man, give me a LITTLE more credit. Julio’s ceiling is still THE WR1, but with so many mocks drafting him as a top-five receiver, it’s worth pointing out that there’s reason to believe we should be tempering our expectations.

Drop GIF | Gfycat

Take it from me, I had a particular Julio experience in 2019. After trading him after Week 3, which resulted in a first-round playoff exit, Jones scored 13.9 PPR ppg in the 9 games he played for me, good for the WR27. 

Yes, that’s right, WR TWENTY-SEVEN. Julio Jones got me WR not one, not two, but WR3 numbers. The guy I traded for was turning 10 targets per game into 6.3 catches for 88 yards and 1.3 touchdowns.

The guy I got? 8.7 targets, 5.5 catches, 83 yards, and zero (pronounced “zee-row”) touchdowns. What’s real deceiving is when Calvin Ridley missed the final three games, Jones averaged 10 catches and 126 yards per game on an average of 16 (!) targets. Oh, and throw a couple more touchdowns in there just to make sure my pillow is fully saturated with tears.

Oh, and there’s our No. 1 reason to pump the brakes…Calvin Ridley.

Now, I may not be on the “He’s the next Chris Godwin” hype train, but the popular fantasy trope of third-year receiver breakouts has my attention, and Ridley is entering his third season. During weeks 4-to-14, Julio’s WR27 stretch, Ridley logged 15.5 ppg, good for the WR13 rate, drawing 8.4 targets. Chris Godwin saw 8.6 targets/game last season, so while it may be a bit much to think Ridley can match Godwin’s 19.7 ppg, the target share was similar, and I don’t see a reason why it should drop in 2020. It may even increase.

In which case, something’s gotta give, and it shouldn’t be Hayden Hurst, who will pick up some of Austin Hooper’s target share, or Todd Gurley (given he hasn’t received his AARP card yet). Atlanta’s offensive line should improve, particularly with their two first-rounders on the line’s right side.

Still, unless the 2020 Falcons are the Greatest Show On Turf, it must be accounted for how many other talented, target-hog receivers are out there on teams that don’t split substantial pieces of their aerial pie to their backs, tight ends, and second receivers like Atlanta is projected to this season.

The WR13 pace that Ridley kept during weeks 4-to-14 last year is just the right amount of mild optimism for 2020, so that 10-game stretch is a safe reference point for this year’s expectations. The WR27 rate that Jones had, however, should not be expected to continue since he failed to see the end zone. With a career rate of 7.23 touchdowns per 16 games, four touchdowns over nine games would be the norm and it would have raised Jones to WR8 during that time period last season.

But since real touchdowns are more valuable than projected ones, WR8 expectations for 2020 might be a little too lofty with Ridley slated to see 100-plus targets. The last time Julio had a teammate with 100-plus targets was Roddy White in 2014.

Now maybe you’re thinking, wasn’t Julio the WR6 in 2014? Yes, yes he was, but rather than having the real threats of Gurley and Hurst seeing a significant piece of the aerial pie, the leading threats at RB and TE in 2014 were Steven Jackson and Levine Toilolo. Speaking of White, when is Ridley going to do to Julio’s career what Julio did to White’s? It’s a little early to expect that in 2020, but Ridley’s coming fast. 

It may sound like I’m just bitter and trying to throw shade on elite talent, but I’m not here to claim Julio’s no longer a WR1. I still have him penciled in as one, even if it’s manning the caboose…

The Wolf and I don’t run with the pack when it comes to our WR13 ranking of Ridley (+5 vs ECR), but my WR12 ranking of Julio Jones puts me on an island, as The Wolf and the Expert Consensus see no threat to Julio’s top-5 status. Check out more on this year’s WR class on The Wolf’s 2020 Big Board and Rankings.

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  • Driven by profit, has the lobes for business. Prioritizes anchors as part of a diversified portfolio. Seeks to be the first hue-mon to become the Grand Nagus. On Twitter @ChaseM_G

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