In case you haven’t heard, Julio Jones is a Tennessee Titan. The star wide receiver was finally traded from the Atlanta Falcons, and you already know the fantasy football community reacted completely fine. (Narrator: They didn’t.)
The move not only gave Tennessee a much-needed pass-catcher to pair with A.J. Brown, but it greatly impacts both offenses involved. Let’s take a look at each affected player and whether their stock rose up, fell down, or stayed stagnant.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans
Underdog ADP: QB17
Ryan Tannehill is thanking his lucky stars that Tennessee pulled this off. Prior to the trade, he was slated to have Josh Reynolds as his WR2. Now, Reynolds has faded out of relevancy while Tannehill gets to throw to two Pro Bowl receivers. Add in a thunderous running back in Derrick Henry and this has the makings of a top-10 offense. Those are fantasy gold mines. It helps that the quarterback has already finished ninth among passers in points per game in back-to-back seasons. As of now, Tannehill is commonly getting picked behind Trevor Lawrence and Matt Ryan, per Underdog’s ADP data. I’d bump up Tannehill to a QB1 ahead of both quarterbacks.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Underdog ADP: WR6
We’ve already seen what Calvin Ridley can do in the fantasy realm. A breakout performance in 2020 saw him finish as a top-five receiver in total points and points per game. In the seven games without Jones, Ridley averaged 18.9 PPR points and more than 11 targets—all better than his season averages with Jones. In fact, Ridley averaged about 2.5 more fantasy points and four more targets playing without Jones than he did with Jones. There’s no reason to think he can’t repeat his production this year. Even if rookie tight end Kyle Pitts steals the show in Atlanta, it’s hard to see Ridley fading out of WR1 territory. Ridley is a bonafide WR1, even with Pitts taking some targets. I’ll probably take Ridley ahead of any receiver not named Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, or Stefon Diggs.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Underdog ADP: TE4
I wrote extensively about Pitts and Atlanta’s offense a few weeks ago, so I won’t go into too much detail about him. Let’s just say my projections only got better for him with Jones gone. Pitts is now the de facto WR2 in an offense that’ll likely be in the upper echelon of pass attempts. The big question is what this offense looks like. It’s easy to look at a Falcons’ offense and say, “They’re going to pass a lot!” But we don’t know what head coach Arthur Smith’s offense may look like. Tennessee’s offense under Smith looked vastly different than Atlanta’s under Dan Quinn. Based on the Falcons’ personnel, it seems foolish to bet against a pass-centric offense. Either way, his skillset and situation alone make Pitts a TE5 for me, which is actually lower than his ADP on Underdog yet seems to be more in tune with his ADP across various sites.
Russell Gage, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Underdog ADP: WR61
Russell Gage may be the biggest benefactor from the Jones trade in terms of ADP. We already saw spurts of impressiveness last season, including in the final six weeks of the season. In that six-game stretch—five of which Jones was inactive for—Gage averaged more than seven targets and just fewer than 15 PPR points. The addition of Pitts does muddle things a bit; adding two better deep-threats in Ridley and Pitts could catapult Gage into a more slot-based role. It helps that Gage will likely play most of his snaps from the slot; he played 59% of his snaps there in 2020. I don’t expect him to be a weekly force of power, but there definitely aren’t 60 wide receivers worth drafting over Gage.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Underdog ADP: QB14
Quite simply, losing the best receiver he ever played with will not help Ryan’s stats. I was already wary about drafting Ryan at his ADP. Now, it’s even harder to pass up players with more rushing upside like Lawrence and Tannehill. Don’t get me wrong, Ryan can still have a solid season. It just would be better if he was throwing to Jones too.
Julio Jones, WR, Tennessee Titans
Underdog ADP: WR16
Whether you believe Jones takes a step back due to age or durability issues is entirely up to you; although recent history suggests Jones will never return to his elite form. Besides, predicting injuries can be a futile business. After all, the oft-injured Will Fuller was on his way to his first full season before getting suspended for PEDs. I’m more concerned about the dip in volume Jones will almost assuredly see. The Falcons have been top-five in passing attempts in each of the last three seasons. The Titans have never been higher than 30th in that time. Using that same time frame, we can compare Jones’ usage to Corey Davis’ in Tennessee, who Jones will essentially replace. Over those three seasons, Jones’ target rate dipped steadily to 14.5% in 2020. Davis’ target rate in 2020 was 12.8%. All the signs point toward a looming decline in production for Jones, who also turned 32 a few months ago.
A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans
Underdog ADP: WR3
I’m no longer taking Brown among the first five receivers. However, I’ll gladly consider him beyond that. This isn’t a slight against Brown, who’s just coming off a sensational sophomore season. He can still easily finish as a top-10 receiver. It’s just all the top receivers tend to be the lone wolf in that passing attack. No one’s arguing that Adams and Diggs are challenged by any other receiver on their respective rosters. For Brown, he may lose a couple of targets to Jones, but it won’t be enough to knock him down too far. And who knows, maybe defenses ease up on Brown to compensate for Jones. However the scenario unfolds, I’d rather have a true WR1 in a more pass-centric offense over Brown, such as Ridley and DeAndre Hopkins. You can even make the case for DK Metcalf and Justin Jefferson too.
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
Underdog ADP: RB4
I almost didn’t include Henry in here, but I felt it important to note that the Titans’ offense has and will always revolve around Henry. Adding Jones does almost nothing to Henry’s fantasy value. Sure, Tennessee may call a few extra passing plays here and there, but I doubt it’ll be enough to keep Henry from seeing 20-plus carries a game. He’s still a top-five running back.