Number 1: Julio Jones
Surprise! Eh, not really at all. Actually, most Atlanta fans that follow the professional teams probably had an idea Julio Jones was going to be number one. No disrepect to the other four who made the list, but Jones is a legitimate superstar that is well-known throughout the league. Since the first day he stepped on the field, he has been everything the Falcons envisioned.
Jones was a beast in college at the University of Alabama. He was the 2008 AP SEC Freshman of the year, won a 2010 BCS National Championship, was an AP All American in 2010, and many other notables. He and University of Georgia star A.J. Green were the top two wide receivers in the 2011 draft class. Green was picked before Jones at number four by the Cincinnati Bengals, but Jones was picked at six by Atlanta. Atlanta ended up trading FIVE of their draft picks in order to trade up from the 27th pick to the 6th pick.
There are fans still to this day that question that trade, but I haven’t lost a second of sleep over it. There’s no way to sugarcoat it, the Falcons definitely won the trade. Jones is a top five receiver in the league, while the five draft picks for the Browns never turned out to be anything. Roddy White was the only threat at receiver for Atlanta, and adding Jones helped Matt Ryan progress into the quarterback he has become.
Julio Jones and Roddy White have been an incredible duo to watch. White was all for having Jones on the opposite side of him, and there never seemed to be any jealously involved. Jones had the talent and skill, and White helped teach Jones crafty veteran moves. There has been an ongoing problem for NFL defenses, which is one of the two receivers is usually double-teamed. If teams double-team Jones, White usually has the big day, and vice-versa. Jones is the obvious number one receiver on the team, but Jones does not let the title go to his head. White’s play has been declining because he is getting older, so he has rearranged his game in order to help Jones succeed. NFL defenses have to gameplan around Julio Jones, and Jones finds a way to give himself or his teammates the best opportunities. He has always been a team player, and will do whatever it takes to help his team come out victorious.
Now there is probably a little bias in my list, but I believe Julio Jones is the second best receiver in the NFL today. Give Calvin Johnson his due, he has been incredible since he entered the NFL and has earned his nickname ‘Megatron.” But I honestly believe when Jones is on, there is no one who can really stop him. Dez Bryant is third on my list, as he is about as talented as the Falcons top receiver. Jones was rated the sixth best receiver overall by ProFootballFocus.com in 2014. He had the third most receptions (104), while reeling in 1593 yards, also third most out of all receivers.
All Falcons fans probably remember the two games in which Jones was immortal against Arizona and Green Bay. Patrick Peterson is a top cornerback in the NFL, and Jones absolutely abused him. He had ten receptions for 189 yards, and brought in a beautiful 32-yard over the shoulder catch touchdown reception. It was like watching a video game, as Jones did what he wanted when he wanted. Then there was the game in Lambeau Field against the dominant Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football. There was absolutely no one who predicited that Falcons would win. Somehow, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones had unbelievable chemistry in the second half that almost won them the game. Want to hear an unreal stat line? Jones had 11 receptions for 259 yards, with a touchdown. 259 yards…yeah a normal day in the office for Jones. A hip injury late in the fourth quarter cost Jones the final 6:20, and it was difficult for Atlanta to recover.
I am big on Julio Jones. I think he is the perfect player for any team, but he needs to remain a Falcon. It looks as the Falcons and Jones will put the contract extension talks to a hold, but expect the Falcons to find a way to re-sign the superstar. Just like the other four players on the list, you never have to worry about off the field issues from Jones. He keeps his nose clean, and has a great personality. This is the best player in Atlanta professional sports. This is a guy that can be trusted. This is a player who represents the city of Atlanta. Julio Jones deserves to be the number one player on this list.