With Zero RB becoming a more popular strategy, wide receivers are being drafted earlier than ever. On average, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. are currently the first two players off the board. I’m here to explain why Julio Jones is every bit as good as those two studs.
Kyle Shanahan Offenses
Last year was Kyle Shanahan’s first year coordinating the Falcons’ offense, but he has been coordinating offenses since 2008.1 He is known in the fantasy community as a huge boost to his team’s WR1. Do the stats support the narrative?
While Shanahan hasn’t always had elite playmakers, he’s willing to force them the ball when he does. Not only did Andre Johnson and Pierre Garcon reach 170-plus targets, but in his first season with Shanahan, Jones becaome one of five players ever to receive over 200 targets in a season. Remember, targets are the lifeblood of fantasy scoring. Targets are the most important predictor of value for wide receivers and Jones leads our composite projections in targets.
The Falcons Offense
The Falcons offense played with pace and were frequently trailing last season. That led to Matt Ryan finishing fifth in the NFL in pass attempts.
Here at RotoViz, we don’t expect that to change this season. We currently have Matt Ryan projected for the fifth most pass attempts.
Here’s a look at Ryan’s Adjusted Yards Per Attempt from 2015.
Despite being targeted over 100 times more than any player on the chart, Jones averaged 3.4 more adjusted yards per attempt than any of the other current Falcons pass-catchers. Jones’ 9.6 adjusted yards per attempt means that he can still be extremely efficient despite seeing high volume and not having consistent threats around him.
With Leonard Hankerson and Roddy White no longer on the team, the Falcons have added Mohamed Sanu. While targets should be available, it’s hard to get excited about the second wide receiver on a Kyle Shanahan offense.
|Year||Team||Player||WR1 TRGPCT||WR2 TRGPCT|
The second wide receiver on Shanahan-led offenses have averaged just 14.4 percent of targets.
It’s also hard to have confidence in Justin Hardy after a dismal rookie year. While the Falcons are excited about Austin Hooper, it’s extremely rare for rookie tight ends to have a big impact.
The Falcons’ 2016 cast of characters doesn’t inspire much more confidence than the 2015 group.
The two wide receivers being taken ahead of Jones are among the best in the league. Let’s see how they compare.
Brown and Jones were targeted more frequently than Beckham in 2015. Despite leading the cohort in yardage, Jones scored the fewest touchdowns last season. Touchdowns, however, can be fluky and regression should work in Jones’ favor this season. Despite leading this group in touchdowns, Beckham actually received the fewest red zone targets.
We use RotoViz’s Similarity Scores to find how comparable players performed in similar situations. To get an idea of how these players will perform next season, let’s see what the Sim Scores say.
|Odell Beckham Jr.||16.5||18.8||19.8|
Despite having the lowest floor, Jones has the best median and high score. In fact, Jones receives the highest Sim Score of any wide receiver.
Many skeptics are concerned about the injury history of Jones. Our in-house doctor Jeff Budoff discussed Jones’ 5th metatarsal stress fracture before the 2014 season and predicted that he would hold up fine. Jones has played in 31 of 32 games since then, so any concerns about his health are probably unwarranted at this point.
Jones is an elite playmaker who has been dominant for his entire career. Due to a sub-par supporting cast, it’s easy to expect Jones to be funneled the ball once again this season. With a high floor due to the potential for 200-plus targets and the high ceiling reflected by the best Sim Scores, Jones makes a compelling choice at No. 1 overall.