Back in 2011, the Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns made a monumental trade in the NFL Draft. Viewed as a potential franchise changing move for both teams, the Falcons gave up a first-round pick (No. 27), a second-round pick (No. 59) and a fourth-round pick (No. 124) in the 2011 Draft. The Browns also received Atlanta’s first-round pick in 2012 (No. 22) and their fourth-round pick in 2012 (No. 118). The Falcons moved up from 27th pick in the draft to 6, allowing the Falcons to pick the Alabama Crimson Tide’s AP All-SEC and All-American wide receiver, Julio Jones.
Many had their doubts about the trade, as Falcons fans believed they gave up too much for one player. How could a star in college completely change a team’s offense? Ever since his first snap in the NFL, Jones has made a difference, whether that be making incredible catches, forcing defensive mismatches, or in the Atlanta community.
In his rookie season, Jones had 54 receptions for 959 yards, bringing in 8 touchdowns. He had five games with 100 yards or more, which showed the quick impact he had. Standing at 6’3” and weighing 220 pounds, Jones is not only a physical specimen but also an athletic freak.
The next year, Jones stepped his play up and became a top-10 receiver in the league. He had 79 receptions for 1,198 yards for 10 touchdowns, and was seventh out of all wide receivers in touchdown receptions. In the first game of his sophomore season, Jones had six receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns in Arrowhead Stadium against the Chiefs. In Week 8 at Philadelphia, Julio Jones had five receptions on five targets, with a beautiful finish to a 62-yard deep ball from Matt Ryan that accounted for six. And to think that was only the beginning…
Due to injury in 2013, Jones only played five games after injuring his foot against the New York Jets. He had a fracture in his foot, and the Falcons suffered from losing their star receiver. They went 4-12, and were one of the worst teams in the NFL. In 2014, Jones came back, and he looked like the star that many envisioned him as. He brought in 104 receptions for 1,593 yards with six touchdowns. The team ended up 6-10, but Jones kept progressing into becoming a top-five receiver.
In 2015, the culture of the Atlanta Falcons changed. Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn, was hired as the Falcons new head coach. He brought in a “fast and physical” mindset, and it looks to have rubbed off on the team. Jones took that phrase to heart, and his play this year has been mind-boggling. Through three games, Jones has 34 receptions for 440 yards and four touchdowns. If he keeps his play up, he would end up with 181 receptions for 2,347 yards, which would shatter records.
Currently, Jones leads the league in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. Though we would all love to believe he will continue this production, he will likely not be able to keep up his production, but he can help other players find a way to get open. Roddy White has been off to a rough start to the season, and with teams going to key in on Jones, White could possibly see more targets. The Eagles, Giants, and Cowboys have failed to stop the monster in Atlanta, and they have suffered the consequences. Watch the video below, and tell me who can stop someone that can do this?
Can Jones keep this play up? There is a lot to be excited for not just as a Falcons fan, but as an NFL fan. This man can be the next great receiver NFL fans tell their children about, and it is happening right now, whether you believe it or not. The greats such as Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin, Randy Moss, and other greats might have to make room for #11, Julio Jones.