News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Impact of Falcons trading Julio Jones to Titans

Nov 26, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) dives in for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The fantasy football season never sleeps. The Atlanta Falcons are reportedly expected to trade Julio Jones to the Tennesse Titans barring any setbacks per ESPN’s Dianna Russini. Adam Schefter expects the package for Jones to be a combination of a second- and fifth-round pick, but both sides believe the deal will get done.

This is a massive move for fantasy football and creates a huge ripple effect for not just the Falcons' offensive weapons, but for the Titans as well.

CALVIN RIDLEY WR1 SEASON

No Julio Jones? No problem. Calvin Ridley‘s ready to be the true No. 1 receiver for the Dirty Birds. Last season, Ridley was an absolute target machine without Jones in the lineup. He averaged a 30% target share (11 per game) and nearly 20 fantasy points per game when Jones was sidelined.

Calvin Ridley | 2020
Yards per route pun Passer rating Receiving touchdowns Target share Fantasy points per game
With Julio Jones 2.29 135.8 6 24% 23.3
Without Julio Jones 2.76 91.1 3 30% 19.8

Ridley’s a locked-and-loaded top-five fantasy WR with Jones no longer in the picture.

MATT RYAN CONCERNS

Losing Jones is not good news for Matt Ryan. The alpha wide receiver’s presence made the offense operate at another last season, and it’s hard to assume that rookie tight end Kyle Pitts can bring that type of impact in Year 1.

Last season in games with Jones, Ryan posted a 90.9 PFF passing grade, 15 touchdowns, thee interceptions, a 106.4 passer rating, 8.3 yards per attempt and a stellar 21.1 fantasy points per game.

Without a healthy Jones, Ryan posted a 67.2 PFF passing grade, 11 touchdowns, eight interceptions, an 82.9 passer rating, 6.6 yards per attempt and a meager 14.5 fantasy points per game.

Don’t expect Ryan to be that bad without Jones in 2021 in a new offense and with different playmakers, but do factor it into his overall fantasy outlook. He’s going to be falling in my next fantasy football rankings update.

May 14, 2021; Flowery Branch, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) shown on the field during rookie camp at the Falcons Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

KYLE PITTS AND THE REST

The Jones trade will give Ridley’s ADP a boost, but it’s going to send Kyle Pitts’ ADP to the freaking moon. We need our tight ends to command targets, and that looks to be much more in Pitts’ favor with a 20-plus percentage target share completely gone from the offense.

However, in the best-case scenario, he’s still the No. 2 option on the team behind Ridley. This makes it tough to rank him over the other tight ends like Mark Andrews and T.J. Hockenson, both of whom are stronger bets to see higher target shares in their respective offenses.

As for the other ancillary offensive pieces like Russell Gage and Olamidee Zaccheaus, fade Gage and buy Zaccheaus as a value. Gage is going to see a massive boost in draft stock, but it’s unwarranted.

The Falcons slot WR averaged more fantasy points per game with a healthy Jones in the lineup (11.7) than without (10.4). His 19% target share did not change at all.

Meanwhile, Zaccheaus performed admirably relative to expectation when given more playing time. He averaged 11.8 fantasy points per game and out-produced Gage across the board. If you’re looking to capitalize on the Jones trade news, the value is taking Zaccheaus with an extremely late pick. The former 2019 UDFA could soon find himself with a starting role on the outside.

RIP A.J. BROWN WR1 SZN

Alas, the dream has died folks. The chances of A.J. Brown being the WR1 overall in fantasy football won’t happen this year because we can’t confidently project Brown to see as high of target share with Jones’ insertion into the lineup.

But for what’s it’s worth, Brown has the chance to be off-the-chart efficient in 2021, which means he is going to be primed for some massive fantasy weeks. Remember folks, Ridley averaged more fantasy points per game with Jones than without. That’s because Jones’ active presence lifts the entire offense in terms of more scoring opportunities.

Take the discount on Brown when he falls into the third round of best ball drafts all day every day.

That’s also why Ryan Tannehill will be flying up the ranking – ahead of Matt Ryan – now that he is armed with two WRs that rank third and fourth in yards per route run, respectively, since 2018. Tannehill was primed for regression after posting the most points above expectation that past two seasons, but that won’t happen with Jones catching balls.

Yards Per Route Run since 2018 (min 150 targets)

Player Yards per Route run
George Kittle 2.92
Michael Thomas 2.68
Julio Jones 2.67
A.J. Brown 2.67
Davante Adams 2.66

Jones’ addition to the Titans also means the days of Josh Reynolds and Anthony Firkser being late-round targets a figment of our imaginations. Firsker still has a place as a TE2, but Reynolds can be ignored for the most part.

JULIO JONES STILL BALLING?

Jones' days with Falcons are over, but his days of being a fantasy monster are not. The narrative that Jones is “washed” is flat-out false. Last season he finished fourth in yards per route run (2.60), and in the seven games he played with at least a 75% snap share (all of his healthy games), he averaged 19 fantasy points, 16.5 expected fantasy points and 100 receiving yards per game.

The ambiguity of his role in the Titans’ offense will see Jones fall in the drafts, making him an unreal value. His ability to elevate an entire offense's efficiency won’t just make him a strong fantasy asset but rather increase the output of others around him.

Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Hayden Hurst and Matt Ryan averaged more fantasy points per game with Jones playing in 2020. If/when Jones gets traded, be all over his new team’s offensive weapons, and stack it up.

Fantasy Featured Tools

  • Sort projected player stats and fantasy points by position, week, and category.

    Available with

    Edge
  • Research past fantasy performance with sortable player stats including PFF-exclusives like aDOT and fantasy points per opportunity.

    Available with

    Edge
  • Create winning NFL Daily Fantasy Sports with PFF’s DFS Lineup Optimizer. Set custom exposures and team stacks to optimize lineups effectively before exporting and uploading the unique lineups to DraftKings, FanDuel or Yahoo DFS.

    Available with

    Elite
  • Available with

    Edge
  • PFF’s Fantasy Strength of Schedule (SoS) metric provides a league-wide, season-long view of opponent matchups for each fantasy position.

    Available with

    Edge
Pro Subscriptions

Unlock NFL Player Grades, Fantasy & NFL Draft

$9.99 / mo
$39.99 / yr

Unlock Premium Stats, PFF Greenline & DFS

$34.99 / mo
$199.99 / yr