In 2018, Jones went into the Week 8 bye with an average of 116 yards per game but a seemingly impossible total of zero touchdowns. Fantasy football twitter was ablaze with #NeverJulio. However, the hashtag firestorm lost momentum over the Falcons remaining nine games as Jones averaged 96 yards per game and scored a total of eight touchdowns. He finished the season as the NFL’s top receiver in targets (170), receiving yards (1,677), air yards (2,420), and percent share of team’s air yards, 45.6%. In full PPR settings, Jones was the WR2, behind only DeAndre Hopkins, and the WR3 in half PPR settings, behind Tyreek Hill and Hopkins.
Another positive note is Jones will be reuniting with old offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Prior to joining the Tampa Bay coaching staff, Koetter was the coordinator with Jones for three straight seasons, 2012-2014. Quarterback, Matt Ryan returns as the starting quarterback and he might have more time to throw the ball in the pocket because the Falcons improved their offensive line. They selected Chris Lindstrom with the 14th overall pick and Kaleb McGary with the 31st pick. Rookie wide receiver breakout, Calvin Ridley, seasoned veteran Mohamed Sanu, and surprising fantasy tight end standout, Austin Hooper all return from last year. As the Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator in 2017, Dirk Koetter used 11 personnel (three wide receivers) on 74% of passing plays so expect to see Jones, as the dominant X receiver, on the opposite side of the field as Ridley, the Z receiver, and Sanu working primarily out of the slot as the Y receiver.
Atlanta passed the ball a lot under former offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Last year, the Falcons had the third-highest passing rate, 65%, behind only Green Bay, 68%, and Pittsburgh, 67%. The Falcons were forced to pass at a high rate because their defense was littered with injuries and gave up points like candy on Halloween. CB Ricardo Allen missed 13 games, safety Keanu Neal missed 15 games, and LB Deion Jones missed 10 games. Expect the defense to be healthier this season. This will take pressure off the offense and could result in some negative regression in total passing attempts. A decrease in total passing attempts would mean less opportunity for Jones.
2019 Bottom Line
Jones is a chalky bet to repeat as the NFL leader in receiving yards. He is a safe pick to finish as a top 12 wide receiver and could repeat within the top five.