Here at Football Guys, I’ll use my methodology for evaluating wide receivers, Reception Perception, in order to look for clues about a wide receiver’s fantasy value. We’ll examine players to buy or sell, and check in on the progress of young dynasty assets. In this edition, we’ll check in on the disappointment surrounding Julio Jones.
When talking elite fantasy wide receivers during the lead up to this season, Julio Jones always found his way into the discussion. Despite missing a good chunk of last season, he was a popular pick in the high second round of fantasy drafts. Clearly, the expectation was a return to—or improvement upon—his 2012 season numbers.
Three touchdowns through ten games later, and we’re left to wonder whether he’ll deliver on the hype this season. Jones hasn’t scored since September. He’s only gone over 20 points in PPR leagues twice, and is outside the top-ten scoring receivers. Jones has not been a poor fantasy asset; he’s still a starting caliber receiver. However, he has not been a consistent high-end WR1. Especially not in standard scoring leagues.
So with the fantasy playoffs fast approaching, and clarity at the utmost importance, Jones provides us with a dilemma. Will he catch fire, and tear through his remaining games, or is it time to permanently revise our 2014 week-to-week expectations? Let’s take a look at Jones’ Week 11 game, against Carolina, through the lens of Reception Perception to find out.
Alignment and Target Data
There is not much to learn from Julio Jones’ alignment data. He took 76.9% of his Week 11 snaps on the left side of the field, and was on the line of scrimmage 80% of the time.
Jones fits the classic mold of the x-receiver, and a team’s number one passing game option. He is big, at 6’3 and 220 pounds, and a physical freak with tremendous speed. Atlanta does use him in the slot at times, and even gave him a look in the backfield, to try and get him favorable matchups. But given his tremendous skill-set, and gifts, you could argue they ought to try it more.
As it stands, Julio Jones is an x-receiver for Atlanta. While that should be a profitable role, it has not always been so this season. Which brings us to the first issue with Jones. The Falcons offense is a below average unit, and all of it’s member’s fantasy values are depressed. With the decrepit state of the offensive line, Matt Ryan cannot get the deep passing game going. The pedestrian running game forces them to be far too one-dimensional. With no tight end or third wide receiver threat, holding Jones and Roddy White in check is an easier task for defensive coordinators. Jones still gets fed in the passing game, but the results are not up to par:
A receiver getting targets on 25% of their routes is more than enough volume to produce. The issue lies with the lack of Jones’ conversion. He’s only making due on 13.6% of his routes, and just over half of his targets. There’s no doubt that Julio Jones’ fantasy value has taken a hit by playing in this Atlanta offense. They’ve been a sinkhole; taking a little piece of each player involved. Yet, Jones is culpable for his role in this disappointing season as well.
Route Analysis and Success Rate vs. Coverage Data
When you think about one of the best receivers in the game, you imagine a strong and diverse route tree. The ability to run every route, and execute multiple pass patterns should be a given. Interestingly enough, Julio Jones does not meet that standard.
Julio Jones Route Tree Percentage chart looks more like a raw rookie’s, than a highly regarded veteran’s. There is next to nothing being run to the left side towards the sideline. Most of Jones’ patterns are easy, in breaking and take him to the middle of the field. He’s not being put in position to make difficult catches, or asked to run advanced routes.
I posted the chart, and called for opinions on the reasoning behind the routes, on twitter. Some of the responses were intriguing. A few opined that he was overrated, and only gets by on his physical gifts. Yet, the more interesting take came from a few followers who suggested Jones cannot run difficult, tough cutting routes due to the multiple injuries he’s overcome in his football career. That was an interesting suggestion.
There does seem to be a lack of refinement in Jones’ game. Whether it’s that, or a result of numerous rehabs, Jones’ play on the field is less than inspiring:
(SRVC denotes success rate versus coverage for each route. PTS indicates how many PPR fantasy points a receiver earned on each particular route)
The routes Jones ran most often were the nine, slant and post. Jones really struggled on go routes, and only came open on one of those. Rarely do we see receivers post a great SRVC score on nines, but Jones’ 14.3% figure is strikingly poor. He should be a big play threat over the top with his size and speed combination. For whatever reason, it’s not happening right now.
Julio Jones was not nearly as ineffective, but still did not post great SRVC scores on posts and slants either. The Falcons used him on a few screen passes. Jones could not shake the cornerback on those play calls either. Simple calls, with no results.
The matchup against the Carolina Panthers’ secondary was supposed to be a slam-dunk for Julio Jones. His fantasy numbers did not go that direction, and frankly, he did not look good on the field either. Jones struggled to beat coverage all day long:
Jones had 32 attempts against man coverage, and only posted a 40.6% SRVC score. Again, this was supposed to be a favorable matchup. Jones was unable to exploit it in terms of fantasy production, or value to his NFL team.
On numerous occasions, Jones faced off against Panthers’ cornerback Josh Norman. The third-year cornerback suffered through some rocky roads in getting to this point in his career. He’s been benched, and skewered by the Carolina coaches on numerous occasions. However, he’s been one of the lone bright spots for their defense over the last few weeks. This culminated in Norman putting up some great tape when working against Julio Jones. The Falcons receiver looked bothered by Norman’s intensity, and the cornerback was able to reroute him several times during the game. Norman had a big hand in Jones’ bad SRVC scores in Week 11.
What does it say about Julio Jones that he struggled so much in this matchup? Well, nothing good. If you cannot trust Jones to come through in a favorable setting, his rest of season outlook becomes troubling. You will always play him in season long formats, but its past time to revise your expectations. Particularly when making daily lineups.
Julio Jones hasn’t had a bad season. He’s still be a great fantasy commodity, and a good one in PPR leagues. However, his production has begun to taper off, and the touchdown drought has not been fixed. Even a great matchup against the Panthers, and a week prior in Tampa Bay, couldn’t cure what ails Jones. If that doesn’t solve the touchdown regression riddle, what will?
Either way you slice it, Jones has been a letdown for fantasy owners who took him think he would be a no-brainer elite WR1. This has coincided with a severe decline in his team’s play, and his own. Jones is not beating coverage with regularity, and his game lacks an overall refinement. Whether that is due to injuries wearing on him or not, we cannot be sure. His name is featured on Atlanta’s injury report this week.
Julio Jones does not meet the standards of an elite NFL wide receiver, at this point in time. That means the fantasy community needs to reconsider their opinion on him, if anyone still views him as a top-flight WR1 option. The potential for that outcome appears greatly depressed for the rest of the 2014 season. Do not fear starting Jones, but do revise your expectations.