June 14, 2021

Here's How the Julio Jones Trade Impacts Titans' Fantasy Football Outlook

There is no offseason in the NFL. 

The league continues to dominate headlines even as the world eagerly awaits the start of the upcoming season. On Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons finally dealt Julio Jones along with a 2023 sixth-round pick to the Tennessee Titans in exchange for a 2022 second-round pick and 2023 fourth-round pick. 

The former Falcons star receiver has long been an elite target thanks to his freakish size, speed, polish, and body control. He produced no less than 1,394 yards between 2014 and 2019, including two league-leading seasons in total yards. The 32-year-old had been the pinnacle of durability until a nagging hamstring cost him seven games in 2020.

Of course, fantasy owners will now rush to project how Jones will fair in Tennessee. Not only does he join a passing attack that ranked 30th in attempts, but he also has to battle A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry for touches. But all isn't lost for those already rostering any of these stars.

The Titans were productive already with Corey Davis in the role Jones will fill. More versatile, powerful, and well-rounded, Jones is the best receiver of the three. This is a different situation than if the Ravens, Browns, or 49ers had acquired the future Hall of Famer. 

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill already ranked seventh in 2020 in fantasy scoring thanks to a superb 65.5 completion rate, 3,819 passing yards, 33 scores and just seven interceptions. The veteran has become an excellent pocket passer with some athleticism remaining in his legs. His fit within the Titans' offense is perfect for their run-heavy attack.

The loss of offensive coordinator Arthur Smith could be a bigger issue for any of the talents than the acquisition of Jones. Smith found the right balance for a healthy and successful offense all-round. The Titans should give more leeway for Tannehill to throw with Jones in the fold but their recipe for success isn't to become a dramatically more voluminous passing offense. 

Even with both Brown and Davis missing four starts in 2020, the wide receiver duo combined for over 2,000 receiving yards. In Atlanta, Jones posted over 1,350 yards for six straight years until injuries shortened his 2020 campaign. But extrapolating his production rate to 16 games would've yielded another qualifying season. 

The most likely scenario is that the team's targets won't be significantly different for anyone. Both Brown and Davis saw between 6.5 and 7.5 targets per week in 2020. Jones, however, was averaging around 10 per-game or just under for most of the last five seasons. If Jones' average holds, he projects to haul in 111 catches, 1,676 yards, and six touchdowns in 17 games.

Even if he falls short, there's room for Jones to rank as a top-five receiver if the touchdown numbers help make up for some of the drop-off in targets. Brown has remained productive as a weapon over the middle and as a bigger play threat. The versatility between the two talents helps the offense tremendously. 

Henry will, of course, feast no matter what. The elite fantasy running back will remain the workhorse of the Titans' attack. Tennessee might want to scale his carries back a bit to help his durability but he's a virtual lock to log 1,500 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns if he's healthy. This offense is built for him to demolish opposing defenses. 

I have Henry as RB2 behind Dalvin Cook, and just ahead of Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara. The addition of Jones can help him stay fresh and score more to help offset the production Jones will also steal. I simply think the Titans will want Henry to see less of a workload after two huge seasons.

Jones overtakes Brown in my receiver rankings, and sees his value stay as a top-six receiver. Brown drops a little but is still a priority target in the fifth-round range. 

Thanks to the Titans' home-run trade, Tennessee's offense should be a juggernaut. Their defense must step up to the challenge after a tough offseason. If they do, the Titans can win the AFC South and go far in the playoffs as a contender. 

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