Falcons: If Calvin Johnson is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, so is Julio Jones

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Calvin Johnson was inducted into Canton last night on his first ballot. The former Detroit Lions star becomes just the seventh wide receiver to be enshrined in his first year on the ballot, joining Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Steve Largent, Paul Warfield, Lance Alworth, and Raymond Berry.

“The culmination of all the work, all the grind, all the ups and downs that you’ve been through, just to be able to excel at that level and be able to have the opportunity to be amongst such greats, honestly, I’m sleeping with a smile tonight,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s “controversial” Hall of Fame resumé shouldn’t be at all, even if he only played nine years — approximately 60 fewer games than the average Hall of Fame receiver. He recorded five 1,200-yard receiving seasons and ranks 31st in career receiving yards. Johnson finished as Detroit’s leader in targets (1,312), receptions (731), yards (11,619), and receiving touchdowns (83). His 84 total touchdowns are second in Lions history behind Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders (109).

Johnson, 35, will be the third player inducted in Canton at age 35 or younger — Gale Sayers and Jim Brown. His 1,964 yards in 2012 remain an NFL record, and among receivers with 200 or more career receptions, his 86.1 yards per game are second only to… you guessed it, Julio Jones.

There really is no reason to even put this out there, but Julio Jones is already a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I only say that, because inevitably, there will be some loser who tries to argue against first-ballot honors. Of the 83 enshrined in Canton on the first year of eligibility, none are more deserving than Julio Jones.

Jones is second all-time in receiving yards in a season (1,871) — Calvin Johnson is first. He’s tied for third all-time in receptions in a season (136) and is first all-time in receiving yards per game, as I mentioned earlier. The Falcons great is 20th in receiving yards all-time but has played significantly fewer games than those ahead of him.

In eight post-season contests, Jones notched 7.6 receptions for 104.3 yards per game, scoring six total touchdowns. He would’ve had the most memorable catch in Super Bowl history had the Falcons won. Santonio Holmes, Lynn Swann, David Tyree, Mario Manningham, and John Stallworth‘s historic Super Bowl catches don’t even compare to the difficulty of Julio’s snag.

Calvin Johnson has been touted as one of the most humble stars the league has ever seen. When he retired in 2016, he did so by slipping out the back door without any celebration, press conference or anything. Julio has as impressive intangibles. No receiver of his quality has ever been a team-first, non-diva leader like him. If he retired this offseason, Julio would be inarguably a first-ballot Hall of Famer.




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