The second-best player on the Falcons is wide receiver Julio Jones. Click here to see how this ranking system was devised.
Total Score: 95
Player Grade: 82 out of 100
Teams he could start for: 32 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 28 out of 32
Teams he could find role on: 32 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +5
Positional Bonus: +3
Jones is a special receiver, justifying why the Falcons opted to leap frog the rest of the league to draft him in the 2011 draft. He likely will take that next step this season to become the Falcons No. 1 receiver. Last year, he was ostensibly the third option of Ryan in the offense evidenced by the number of times Jones converted on third downs: 15 times last year. Tony Gonzalez (22) and Roddy White (25) outpaced him, but he will likely close the gap in 2013. And at the point where Jones surpasses them, he’ll truly be a complete No. 1 receiver. And that point should come in the very near future.
Already Jones is the Falcons’ primary asset for big plays, with a steady mix of vertical throws to him, as well as short throws designed to get him in space to make plays after the catch. Something he excelled at last season, as he alongside Michael Crabtree was the only receiver in the NFL to average 6 or more yards after the catch with at least 75 receptions (per Pro Football Focus).
Jones is the complete package, and thus will draw the majority of the attention from opposing defenses. Gonzalez and White are both very steady receivers, but they are largely possession guys. Evidenced by their third down conversions, they fit the bill more as chain movers, although White made his fair share of big plays last year. Jones being the playmaker will draw more of the coverages because of the fear he instills in defense. But that will lead to continued success by Gonzalez and White, alongside Matt Ryan who will continue to be efficient.
If there is any weakness to Jones, it is the fact that he has yet to stay healthy for an entire season. While he missed no games in 2012, he was limited in roughly a quarter of the Falcons games due to nicks and scrapes. A key to Jones’ ascension in 2013 will be staying healthy for the entire season, something that White has done to great success. Jones has changed up his diet, taking some tips from Gonzalez to potentially impart some of his teammates’ trademark longevity.