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Julio Jones: 2017 NFL MVP Contender

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 NFL season was a career highlight for the former Alabama star receiver, Julio Jones. Despite not being a career-high season in terms of statistics, his Atlanta Falcons made it to the Super Bowl and nearly knocked off the ring-leading New England Patriots. Aside from just making it to the world’s biggest stage, he made some of the biggest plays one will ever see.

What makes Julio Jones so special is not only his tantalizing sideline grabs, but his quick off-the-line foot speed and pristine route running – in addition to his 6’3″ frame. In many ways, Jones is one of the league’s most well-rounded athletes, and he shows that in every game.

On the season as a whole, he snatched 102 receptions for 1,409 yards and six touchdowns. He was key to the Falcons’ playoff run as he managed another 334 yards on 19 catches in the post-season, including three more touchdowns.

His quarterback, 32-year-old Matt Ryan, was ultimately awarded the NFL’s most prestigious title: Most Valuable Player. Deservedly so, too, coming after Ryan threw for nearly 5,000 yards and 38 touchdowns while throwing a career-low seven interceptions.

This year, however, could be Julio’s year.

By far one of the most dynamic players on the field every single week, he only made his brand that much more renowned with his Super Bowl heroics. Few, if any, can stay with Julio man-to-man, and there’s far too many weapons on the Falcons’ offense for him to be consistently doubled.

The disappointing final outcome of the season should fire him and the rest of the team up enough to take advantage of each minute of film study, each minute of workouts, and each minute of camp. And probably in ways unbeknownst beforehand.

One of the biggest hurdles he will face are the rising stardom of fresh faces like that of former Mississippi State quarterback, and rookie phenom, Dak Prescott, as well as the fact that no receiver has ever been named MVP in the 42-year-history of the award.

Luckily, in this day and age, voters tend to value new, but established, faces for the award – making Julio Jones possibly a perfect candidate. As the premiere quarterbacks of the league continue to get older, they begin to rely on playmakers more and more: Antonio Brown for Ben Roethlisburger, Dez Bryant for Tony Romo, Julian Edelman for Tom Brady.

By the time this season rolls around, Matt Ryan will be in his 10th season. By no means is he out of his prime, obviously, but as a veteran quarterback he knows where his bread is buttered.

And more often than not, that is with #11.

Jake Weaver is a lead writer for TD Alabama Magazine and Bama Hoops Hype. You can contact him via phone at 205-612-5060, or on Twitter @JWeaver_TDALMag

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