Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones jumped back on the fantasy radar after his two-touchdown, 131-yard performance in a quarter and change against Indianapolis last week.
However, he did not come out unscathed from the Colts game. He has again battled the hamstring injury this week, being limited in practice on both Thursday and Friday. He is probable for Sunday’s game against AFC South rival New Orleans.
It leaves fantasy owners wondering what to do with the rookie. Is he a reliable start?
Jones is fantasy’s 25th-best total points receiver despite missing two games and not having much of an impact in Week 2 after a five-catch, 71-yard NFL debut against Chicago. He is fantasy’s 14th-best points per game producer (12.98) in Athlon’s half-PPR format.
Falcon quarterback Matt Ryan has liked him from the start. After the 5-71 debut, he went just 2-for-29 but on a team-high eight targets against Philadelphia in Week 2. Jones bounced back with 6-for-115 on seven targets in Week 3 against Tampa Bay and 11-for-127 yards on 17 targets against Seattle in Week 4.
He was hurt in the fourth quarter (strained left hamstring) against Green Bay after catching one ball for 16 yards on four targets. Jones missed Weeks 6 and 7 and the Falcons had their bye in Week 8.
Jones now has 46 targets, catching 28 balls for 489 yards and two scores. Atlanta’s No. 1, Roddy White, has 78 targets, catching 43 for 501 yards and three scores. White averages 9.8 targets a game, while Jones averages 7.6.
The re-emergence for Jones after the bye was certainly a nice how do ya do. He received just four targets against the Colts, but caught three of them for 131 yards and his first and second career touchdowns in a very DeSean Jackson-like day.
His second TD helped give the Falcons a 21-0 lead over Indianapolis three minutes into the second quarter and he produced just one catch for one yard and one rush for 19 yards the rest of the way. So it’s hard to say what Jones would have done in a more competitive game.
This Sunday should be that competitive game.
Atlanta faces a New Orleans defense that has surrendered just one TD to a receiver in the last three games and six altogether since giving up three to three different receivers in the opener against Green Bay. And it’s not just touchdowns that are scarce, so are double-digit fantasy days from receivers. The Saints have allowed only Brandon Lloyd (6-53-1), Arrelious Benn (3-83-1) and Steve Smith (3-79-1) to have double-digit days in Athlon’s half-PPR scoring format in the last six games. Obviously, it was the TD that put all three over the 10-point mark, something Jones just got the first two of in his career.
New Orleans has also allowed at least 72 yards rushing in each of the last six weeks on an average of 17.3 carries, and days of 115, 109 and 159 are all in there in three of the last four weeks. Now Michael Turner, fantasy’s No. 8 RB, lines up against New Orleans.
The Saints will be without linebacker Jonathan Vilma, defensive end Turk McBride this week, and cornerbacks Tracy Porter (neck/chest) and Patrick Robinson (stomach) are probable and questionable. That’s good news for Matt Ryan and Co., ranked as the 12th-best fantasy quarterbacks and 22nd-best fantasy receivers, going against a New Orleans team already ranked 15th against fantasy quarterbacks and 19th against fantasy receivers.
This is a tough call on whether Jones is a WR2 or not this week because of what the Saints have done against fantasy receivers as of late, because you never know whether it will be a Roddy White or Jones day and because the New Orleans has been getting gashed by running backs and Turner could steal the scores.
But this is why the Falcons moved up in the draft to grab Jones. He is the explosive weapon Atlanta needed to consistently keep up with and defeat high-powered offensive teams such as the Saints. The Falcons saw the talent, and so should you.
By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter