Sports Illustrated recently did a piece ranking the top outside wide receivers in the NFL. Coming in at number four is Atlanta’s own Julio Jones. He came just ahead of A.J. Green, who was drafted two spots ahead of him in the draft, and finished behind the dynamic trio of Dez Bryant, Odell Beckam Jr. and Antonio Brown.
Julio Jones is coming off a career year in which he caught 136 balls for 1,871 yards and 8 touchdowns. He is a physical freak than can not only blow by corners with his speed but go up and get the ball at its peak with the best of him. With Julio just beginning the prime of his career, this number seems a little low.
Bryant, who comes in at number two on the list, has electric speed with elite catching ability. However, Jones has proven to be a much better possession receiver and is much more involved in the offense on a down-to-down basis. Last year was a weird year for Bryant. Not only did he battle injuries and miss seven games, but the quarterback situation was an absolute mess due to injuries as well. Bryant only caught 31 balls for 401 yards and 3 TDs, which equals about three catches for 45 yards a game. Compare that to Jones who averaged over 8 catches for almost 117 yards per game. Even when the situation was perfect in Dallas, Bryant has never eclipsed the 100 reception mark per year, and in their last two full seasons, Jones has out-received Bryant by close to 900 total yards. This situation frankly is not even really close, as Bryant should without a doubt be behind Jones on this list.
Just ahead of Jones is Giants superstar Odell Beckam Jr. Beckam Jr. has been absolutely unbelievable since coming into the league, setting new records for young receivers on a seemingly game-by-game basis. In his first two seasons as a pro, Beckam Jr. has caught for over 2,750 yards and an astonishing 25 touchdowns, and he even missed four games in his rookie season. The scariest part about Beckam Jr. is he is still getting better. The Giants lean him as much as any receiver in the league and his stats are only going to go up. In this case, I would still have Jones slightly ahead of Beckam Jr., but that could change as soon as this year.
I have no problem with Antonio Brown being number one on the list. He has simply been the most consistent receiver in the NFL over the past two seasons. He touches the ball so many times over a game, and every time he touches it there is a chance it is going to the end zone. The hard work he has put in has paid of and he deserves the title as the best wide receiver in the game at this point.
Jones has been terrific for Atlanta and there is a chance he could be in for the best year of his career this season. With the line expected to improve, the Falcons should be able to utilize the vertical passing game more. Also Mohamed Sanu joins the team to play opposite of Jones. If he can effectively win his one-on-ones, it will take pressure off of Jones and possibly allow him to become the first receiver to eclipse the 2,000 yard mark.