Like most sports fans, a solid chunk of my quarantine was pleasantly punctuated by The Last Dance. Growing up in Chicago in the ’90s, I reveled in the nostalgia and was reminded of the indelible mark that Michael Jordan left on my youth. Back then, I knew what I was watching was special ... but I didn’t fully appreciate the history that was being made.
Which caused me to think about the present day. Without question, we are living through historical times. And we are thirsty for a distraction. If the ratings attached to this year’s NFL Draft prove anything, it’s that Americans miss sports. The only certainty about the upcoming football season is the passion it has kicked up inside of people.
There exist a million scenarios that could serve just as many agendas and narratives. But there’s something universally thrilling about a veteran player — one who already has a uniform on display in Canton — shattering expectations and establishing new records for the already-explosive next generation.
We are on the precipice of #PeakJulio, y’all.
Julio Jones is about to put together his masterpiece
I know Calvin Ridley truthers are steaming right now, but hear me out. The Falcons are an offensive powerhouse. This squad has ranked top-five in passing plays for two consecutive seasons. In 2019, under the direction of OC Dirk Koetter, Atlanta ranked first in attempted passing plays (684). The full-season exits of Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper, and Devonta Freeman free up over 200 looks. While Russell Gage, Hayden Hurst, and Todd Gurley figure to see a good portion of those opportunities, the assumption that they’ll produce immediately flies in the face of the continuity argument. If anything, it’s further fodder for the smashing of a dynamic duo like Jones and Ridley. Simply put, the A has enough wealth for both receivers to post top-20 fantasy numbers.
But what about Julio’s age? He’s 31-years-old. There are real durability concerns, right? Well, sure. Except Julio hasn’t missed significant time for the past six years (since 2013). Over the past three seasons, he’s been on the field for 47 contests, sitting out just one week over his last three campaigns. During that time he’s averaged over 1,500 yards and finished inside of the top-five FF producers at the position all three seasons. He’s been the fantasy WR3 in back-to-back efforts.
I’m not saying that the changing of the guard won’t happen. We have, in fact, seen it occur between Roddy White and Julio back in 2012. That year, White beasted with a 92-1,351-7 stat line, closing out his eighth year in the NFL as fantasy’s WR9 overall. Meanwhile, Julio broke out, clearing just under 1,200 receiving yards and ending his sophomore effort as FF’s WR11. The difference is, Julio is a generational talent who recently signed a $66 million extension and is under contract through 2023.
We have seen wideouts entering their tenth season put forth a career effort. Remember Randy Moss’ 2007? No, Matt Ryan isn’t Tom Brady, and there’s zero chance Jones finds the end zone more than 10 times, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t deserve top-four consideration at receiver. If ever there was a moment to prioritize Julio’s talent and situation ahead of Davante Adams’ theoretical volume or DeAndre Hopkins’ physicality it is NOW.
A top-eight fantasy producer since 2014 and coming off of a season in which he drew the second-most deep targets (31) while also averaging 2.82 yards per pass route (WR6), Jones is entering his “Last Dance” campaign. History will be made … regardless of whether it’s a part of yours.
Who are your favorite “Last Dance” Candidates? Engage with Liz on social @LizLoza_FF.