For the past week we've been speculating on what the Falcons offense might look like without Julio Jones and what his arrival might mean for someone like A.J. Brown. Now we're about to find out because Jones is headed to the Tennessee Titans in a trade. It's time to project what this trade means for everyone's Fantasy value. Let's start with the man being traded.
Jones had a hard time staying healthy last year, only playing more than half of his team's snaps in seven of 19 contests. But when he was healthy, he was still awesome. In those seven games, he averaged exactly 100 yards per game which nearly matches his averaged 101.3 since the start of 2013. It's hard to project a 32-year-old with Jones' injury to play 17 game but we should project that when he's healthy he'll dominate as he has for the better part of the past decade. My initial projections have him at WR16, within one point per game of WR11.
We discussed every angle of the blockbuster trade that sends Julio Jones to the Titans on an emergency FBT. Where are we ranking Jones, Calvin Ridley, A.J. Brown, Russell Gage, Ryan Tannehill, Matt Ryan and Kyle Pitts? Find out on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts!
Jones' arrival in Tennessee is phenomenal news for Ryan Tannehill, but mixed for everyone else. The fact that the Titans were willing to trade a Round 2 pick for Jones suggests a potential increase in pass volume and Tannehill has already been one of the most efficient passers in the NFL the past two seasons. He's now a solid top-12 quarterback with legitimate top-five upside if everything goes his way.
While Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown do see a slight ding in their projections because of the volume Jones should command, but the attention Jones sees could help them maintain what appeared to be unsustainable efficiency. Just how many times can teams put eight in the box or double Brown if Jones is on the field? Henry is still a top-five running back in all formats for me and Brown remains a top-six receiver. But Brown should probably move down at least one spot -- if only to make room for Calvin Ridley.
The story with the Falcons is the polar opposite of the Titans. Matt Ryan is hurt badly by this move, but the rest of the pass catchers probably need a little boost. Everyone was less efficient with Jones off the field last year, but Calvin Ridley now has an opportunity to be amongst the league leaders in targets...if Arthur Smith lets him.
One thing this trade makes me question is just how much the Falcons are going to pass. Smith called a very run-heavy offense in Tennessee while the Falcons were one of the league's most pass-happy under Dirk Koetter. If the Falcons are close to the league lead in pass attempts then Ryan could be fine and Ridley could be the No. 1 receiver in Fantasy. But that loss in efficiency could be a real problem if the team is closer to the league average in terms of pass rate.
As of now, I've moved Ridley up to WR5, one spot ahead of Brown. I'm also bumping up Mike Davis slightly due to more target opportunity and a better possibility for more runs in the offense. I haven't moved Kyle Pitts' ranking, because his ranking is less about projection and more about whether his elite profile can translate into a rookie season like we've never seen from a tight end. If anything, Jones' departure could be a negative for him. It's definitely a negative for Ryan, who is not a top-20 quarterback for me without Jones. He certainly wasn't last year.
Finally, don't forget about the peripheral players. Russell Gage is a great sleeper as a borderline No. 3 in PPR while Olamide Zaccheus is a deep sleeper and a Dynasty stash. On the flip side, this really hurts whatever sleeper appeal Josh Reynolds and Dez Fitzpatrick had while also limiting the potential breakout for Anthony Firkser.
This trade makes the Titans offense got a lot better and a lot more crowded, but the talent is so good the efficiency could make up for it. In Atlanta, there's more opportunity, we just have to hope that Pitts can be as advertised on day one, or the loss of Jones could really put a ding in what we've counted on as a prolific pass attack.
So which sleepers, breakouts and busts should you target and fade? And which QB shocks the NFL with a top-five performance? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy cheat sheets for every single position, all from the model that called Josh Allen's huge season, and find out.