In the final segment of our Crimson Tide in the NFL series, we take a look at the Atlanta Falcons star who was a first round draft pick after a great career in Tuscaloosa. Julio Jones only played three seasons at Alabama but showed that he was one of the Tide’s best players. He finished with 2,653 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. The only thing Alabama fans can think about now is why we didn’t use him more often.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons, Wide Receiver
6’3″, 220 pounds
6 years, $81.4 million
The Atlanta Falcons traded away five draft picks to move into the Cleveland’s position in the 2011 NFL Draft. Jones was selected with the six pick in the draft, moving the Falcons up 20 spots from their original position. The Browns haven’t done much with those five picks, as the only player still on the roster that came from that deal is quarterback Johnny Manziel. Atlanta has been more than happy with their pick though as Jones has become one of the best players in the league and an easy number one target for Matt Ryan.
Jones has gotten to play much of his career as the number two guy in Atlanta, behind former UAB receiver Roddy White. White has had a great career and had a great connection with Jones as soon as he stepped into the team’s locker room. The Blazer standout has helped guide Jones along the way and never saw the new big time receiver as a threat to the starting job. Now, White is 33 years old and has dealt with some durability issues in the past couple of season. He is still a good pro receiver but Jones will be looked at as the number one guy in Atlanta’s offense.
In four seasons, Jones has played in 49 games for the Falcons. He missed an extended period of time in 2013 when a foot injury in week 5 kept him out the rest of the season. He was targeted a total of 445 times in those game, which is right on par with White with nine targets per game. Last season was the first time that Jones received more targets than White (163 to 125) and it showed with his biggest year statistically of his career. Jones finished with 104 catches for 1,593 yards and six touchdowns. His production has consistently gone up – along with his numbers per game in 2013 – and will be expected to keep the improvement going in 2015.
Fantasy: Jones currently has an average draft position of 16.8 on ESPN.com as the number five receiver in the league. Being the number one target in a pass heavy offense makes Jones an easy starter for any league, especially one with PPR scoring. There have been arguments made that Jones may be the number one receiver in the league, just ahead of Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and Denver’s Demaryius Thomas. Jones is one of two main weapons in the pass-first offense, while many of the other league’s top receivers will be splitting less targets with more receivers. Jones has never been a touchdown guy, having just 15 in his college career and 26 in his four professional seasons. The Falcons hope to add the running aspect to the offense and a lot of their success may rely on rookie running back Devonta Freeman. If Freeman can became a capable NFL back, it could open up more of the field for Ryan and Jones to work with.
Caleb Turrentine is a contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter, @CalebTurrentine.