Last October, Dan Quinn lamented about not giving Julio Jones the ball enough. From that point on, Jones averaged 11.1 targets per game, nearly four more than what he landed through his first five.
If Quinn's directives get those kinds of results, Fantasy owners shouldn't hesitate to draft Jones with a top pick again this fall, even if he's fresh off a three-touchdown season.
Speaking from the NFL's annual league meeting in Orlando, the Falcons coach made it crystal clear that Jones' role near the goal line is part of a deep analysis of red-zone plays that the team is undertaking this offseason.
"The red-zone portion for us, the scoring, it's always a good decision to get (Jones) the ball when you can," Quinn said. "But sometimes as it gets lower in the red zone, other people know his program too and say 'OK, this guy can't be a factor.' It's a big topic for us, and one that we're spending a lot of time on this offseason. We're going to devote practice time to that as well."
But that's just part of what's keeping Quinn optimistic about Jones' future.
"He gets an offseason again, to train and run," Quinn said of his stud receiver. "Last year, no OTAs and no training camp. That's a big thing."
Jones definitely wasn't himself last season. He was slow to come back from toe surgery. It was gross enough that he scored three times but only one came in the red zone despite 18 red-zone targets. His catch rate was at a distant six-year low (59.5 percent), which in turn dragged his yards per game to a five-year low (90.3). Eight drops weren't ideal. Plus it didn't help that quarterback Matt Ryan settled for a six-year low in completion percentage (64.7 percent) and a nine-year low in touchdowns (20).
Quinn chalks a lot of it up to a lack of chemistry developed between the two of them.
"There's nothing that takes place of on-field practice," Quinn said. "We're excited for guys like Julio who are able to work this spring and that timing for he and Matt, which they didn't do last year."
Despite it all -- injuries, lack of practices, butter fingers and missed opportunities -- Jones scooped up 1,444 yards on 88 catches. Despite it all, he still finished in the top seven among receivers regardless of format -- something he's done every year.
Heck, if he had scored six touchdowns instead of three, he would have finished as a top-three receiver in any format.
We're really gonna avoid this guy?!
It makes sense that Jones' whole year was thrown off by missing training camp and the preseason. If that's not going to be the case this year, shouldn't we believe his catch rate will go up? And if so, then he'll theoretically get more touchdown opportunities. A guy like Jones, who has averaged 10.4 targets per game over his past three seasons and is a matchup nightmare, basically falls into desirable Fantasy production.
He's the absolute definition of a bounce-back player, even if it's bouncing back in one category. Odds are he'll improve on the three touchdowns -- he's found the end zone at least six times in every other season he's played 13-plus games in.
If you're into drafting players based solely on what they did a year ago, you should get excited to take Jarvis Landry. If you're into drafting players based on what they should do in the present day based on current events as well as relative past performance, Jones should be on your wish list as at least a top-15 overall pick, if not a top-10 choice. After all, there aren't a lot of big-time receivers you'll feel as good about drafting as Jones.