Fantasy football is a reactionary sport.
David Johnson was the first pick in everyone’s draft this past year because he was the best fantasy player in 2016. Todd Gurley is likely to have a similar fate in drafts this year after showing us all that his sophomore season was nothing more than a Jeff Fisher nightmare. I, sadly having to deal with Gurley on my fantasy team during that Fisher nightmare, didn’t touch him on any of my drafts this year. Lived to regret that mightily, but it proves my point of fantasy football’s reactionary-ness (yea, that’s a word); since Gurley scorned me in 2016, I refused to touch him in 2017.
Since I totally nailed that call, I figured I’d share my biggest 2017 reaction (in case you for whatever reason missed the title of this article and/or haven’t pieced together where I’m going with this whole opening): Julio Jones isn’t worth a first round pick.
For those who’ve listened to the RB1 Podcast, you’ve heard me give this take before. This was the first season of my fantasy career that I had Jones on my team and as such, I got a front row seat to his surprisingly complicated fantasy production. And this hasn’t been the first time he’s been a nuisance to fantasy owners.
Before we get down into the nitty gritty of it all, I want to clarify what I look for in a first round pick. When I take a player in the first round, I’m expecting that dude to be my franchise guy. That is to say, he’s suppose to consistently give me solid production and the only time I need to worry about benching him is when he’s on his bye. I like players I can plug into my lineup and then never have to worry about again.
I’ll grant you this is a rare breed of fantasy player, especially when you’re looking outside of the quarterback position. Antonio Brown is really the only player who consistently does this from a year-to-year basis, and I’d add Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, Alvin Kamara and DeAndre Hopkins, and maybe Gronk, to the list of this year’s most consistent players. (Here’s an absurd fact: Gurley scored only single digits once this season—outside of Week 17—and under 15 points only four times.)
Now we can get to the ballad of Julio Jones.
On paper, you might be shocked to hear my grand proclamation and completely reactionary claim that Jones isn’t worth a first round pick. Jones finished this year WR6 in standard scoring and WR7 in PPR. He was second in the NFL in receiving yards (1,444) and third behind only Marvin Jones and Brandin Cooks in yards per reception (16.4, minimum 60 receptions).
However, all of those numbers are inflated thanks to Jones posting 253 receiving yards, two touchdowns and 38 fantasy points (ESPN standard) against the Buccaneers in Week 12. If you take away those 38 points, Jones plummets to WR23 this year. Even if replace those 38 points with the 7.8 points he averaged per game this season, he’d be WR19. Not exactly worthy of the third overall pick if you ask me.
I’m not challenging the notion that Julio Jones is one of, if not the, best receiver in the league right now. He’s the only human on this green covered rock that could do what he did against the Buccaneers and make it look that easy. (Seriously, watch the replay. I’m surprised he even broke a sweat that game.) That was the single greatest fantasy performance from a wide receiver this season and of course I was ecstatic that he was on my team for that week. But every other week I found myself seriously debating if benching him was the right move.
Outside of that week, Jones scored double digit points only four times: 10 in Week 2, 15 in Week 7 (where he scored his only other touchdown of the season), 11 in Week 9 and 14 in Week 16. Every other week he posted single digits.
But Pete, couldn’t this just be a bad season for him? Remember, Kyle Shanahan left to go coach Jimmy Garoppolo’s beautiful face in San Francisco and the Falcons offense clearly hasn’t been the same this season.
Good point Italicized Text, let’s look at last year. And remember, this was the record breaking, “Falcons offense is an unstoppable force of nature”, MVP Matt Ryan year.
Again, Jones finished WR6 in standard scoring but also again, a lot of that came from one monstrosity of a game. Last year, it was posting 300 yards, a touchdown and scoring 36 fantasy points against the Panthers in Week 4. Take away that 36 points and replace it with the 8.8 points he averaged per game and Jones drops to WR13.
Jones definitely was more consistent last year (2016 season technically) in fantasy scoring than this year (2017 season). He only had four games with single digit scoring and managed to haul in six touchdowns on the season instead of the measly three he had this year. Still, his double digit performances were all under 20 points and half of those were under 15 points. He also did miss two games in 2016 with an injury. (Not sure how that exactly fits into my argument but figured it was important to note.)
The trend I’m noticing over the last two seasons is that Jones will give you one mind-blowingly ridiculous game in which he reminds the world that he is the sole greatest receiver on the planet, but then for the rest of the season, he’s either slightly above average or very below average when it comes to fantasy output. I’m not saying Jones is undraftable or if you’re drafting in a 12 team league and you have 1.12 with Julio sitting there that you should scoff and draft someone else. I’m just suggesting you look past the surface of Jones’ numbers the last two seasons and dig a little deeper before you take him with a top 10 pick.
Personally, I’ll be passing.