Fantasy: Winners and losers from the Julio Jones trade

Carmen Mandato / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Find positional rankings, additional analysis, and subscribe to push notifications in the NFL Fantasy News section.

June can be a quiet time on the fantasy calendar, but the Tennessee Titans kept the excitement going with their acquisition of All-Pro wideout Julio Jones from the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for a package of picks.

Let's take a look at the biggest fantasy winners and losers on both teams moving forward.

Titans

Julio Jones

Calvin Ridley's rise and Kyle Pitts' arrival in Atlanta had already moved Jones into the low-end WR1 range in my rankings prior to this trade. Now the veteran goes to a team with far less competition for targets, but the Titans' passing volume is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

The Falcons were fourth in the NFL in passing attempts in 2020 (628), while the Titans were 30th (485). That looks problematic until you realize there are 150 vacated targets in Tennessee at receiver alone with guys like Corey Davis and Adam Humphries no longer on the roster. And the team lacks a proven third option in the passing game, which guarantees Jones and A.J. Brown will dominate targets.

Concerns about Jones' durability at 32 years old are understandable after he missed seven games last year, and receivers his size historically don't age well.

However, it's hard to fathom Jones completely falling off a cliff in 2021, as he's just a season removed from one of the greatest six-year stretches ever at his position.

Year Games Recs Yds TDs
2020 9 51 771 3
2019 15 99 1394 6
2018 16 113 1677 8
2017 16 88 1444 3
2016 14 83 1409 6
2015 16 136 1871 8
2014 15 104 1593 6

Even if he misses some games, there should be plenty left in Jones' tank, and he can make an impact for at least another few seasons while writing a new chapter in his career.

Though his overall stats might take a hit, he still warrants a top-15 spot as a fantasy receiver in an offense that should continue to be extremely efficient through the air, despite being built around Derrick Henry and the run game. Verdict: Small Loser

A.J. Brown

Prior to this trade, Brown's main competition for targets was going to be Josh Reynolds and Anthony Firkser. While both players maintained strong sleeper appeal, Brown was positioned for a sizeable increase in volume.

Following a year when he finished as the WR6 in fantasy points per game (17.7), it wasn't a stretch to view him as a contender to rise to the top of that list in 2021.

Sadly, fantasy managers banking on that ascension this season need to recalibrate after Jones' addition. Defenses won't be able to focus on Brown with Julio lining up on the other side of the field, but his targets won't reach the level required to push for the fantasy-receiver crown.

This isn't a death knell for the young wideout's stock, as he still deserves to be drafted as a low-end WR1. Just know that his ceiling is capped unless the offense puts more emphasis on passing. Verdict: Loser

Ryan Tannehill

Tannehill is the Titan's biggest winner after his fantasy outlook was expected to take a hit following the losses of weapons like Davis, Humphries, and tight end Jonnu Smith.

Doubts over whether Tannehill can maintain his insane efficiency since taking over in Tennessee were moving him down draft boards, but that fall will end now.

Jones joining the mix provides Tannehill with the league's best receiver tandem, while Henry's power running continues to take pressure off his quarterback.

A career year is definitely in play for the 32-year-old, and in 2020 he posted his best touchdown total since entering the NFL while notching 40 combined scores (33 passing, seven rushing).

At worst, Tannehill belongs in the low-end fantasy QB1 conversation once again thanks to an excellent supporting cast (including the return of tackle Taylor Lewan), and his strong rushing numbers. Verdict: Winner

Derrick Henry

It was going to be tough for Henry to match his 2020 performance, regardless of who's on the roster around him. Trying to repeat a season when he rushed for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns is nearly impossible, so expectations needed to be realistic, and his value was adjusted accordingly well before this deal.

However, Jones' presence will make it much more difficult for teams to stack the box on Henry, meaning you should get ready for another top-five fantasy campaign from the power back - if he can hold up while shouldering another big workload. Verdict: Value Unchanged

Anthony Firkser

We had high expectations for Firkser potentially emerging as the de facto No. 2 pass-catcher in Tennessee. Those dreams are gone now, as he'll sink into a far less appealing TE2 role in fantasy.

The Titans still love using their tight ends, and Firsker is more than capable of producing if given the opportunity. But the volume simply won't be there with Jones in town. Verdict: Loser

Josh Reynolds

Similar to Firkser, Reynolds would have assumed a larger role in the Titans' offense - maybe even sliding in as the replacement for Davis.

Now he'll need an injury to Brown or Jones before returning to the fantasy radar as anything more than a dynasty stash. Verdict: Loser

Falcons

Calvin Ridley

Jones’ departure does have its downsides for Ridley, like an increase in defensive attention paid to the team’s new No. 1 wideout. However, that transition arguably already began in 2020 when we saw a seven-game sample size of life for Ridley without Julio in the lineup. The 26-year-old averaged seven catches and 109 yards per game in those contests while scoring three touchdowns.

This trade also gives Ridley a chance to lead the league in total targets, a category he finished seventh in last season. That would position him to push for the title of fantasy’s best receiver in 2021.

As it stands, he’s fourth in my rankings, and someone I’ll be targeting heavily in all my drafts. Verdict: Winner

Kyle Pitts

It’s scary to see Pitts already being anointed as a superstar before playing a game, especially since we’ve watched many tight ends struggle to live up to the hype as rookies. But it’s impossible to ignore the opportunity in front of him as he steps into the Falcons’ offense as their new big-bodied freak athlete and matchup nightmare.

How fast he can find his footing will be something to monitor, but he’s set up as well as any tight end ever has been as a rookie. If all goes well, he could join the small group of elite tight ends this year, making him worthy of being valued as a top-five fantasy option at the position.

My only fear is his ADP will rise following the Jones trade, likely pushing Pitts into the first three rounds and making him a riskier pick. Verdict: Winner

Matt Ryan

Losing a Hall of Fame talent like Jones will clearly hurt Ryan’s fantasy stock.

He averaged 310 passing yards per outing in the nine games with Julio available last year, and only 263 yards per appearance without him. Unfortunately for Ryan, the rest of his numbers also take a turn for the worse.

We need to take Ryan’s age (36) into account too after there were rumors suggesting Jones’ desire to leave Atlanta was partially rooted in his longtime quarterback's declining arm strength.

Ryan possesses enough firepower to be a serviceable QB2 still. Just don’t expect him to finish inside the top 15 among fantasy passers this season. Verdict: Loser

Russell Gage

Gage could emerge as the biggest winner from this deal after sliding into a near full-time role when Jones was out during the second half of 2020.

Though he quietly ended the campaign as the WR37 in fantasy, Gage averaged the 13th-most fantasy points over the final four matchups with stat lines of 5-82-0, 5-68-1, 4-23-0, and 9-91-1.

He should now be viewed as a WR4 with plenty of upside. Verdict: Winner

Mike Davis

Davis’ fantasy value stays in the low-end RB2 range, though he'll now get fewer scoring opportunities after Jones' departure.

However, an uptick in targets should offset that thanks to an increased pass-catching role. Davis remains intriguing for those willing to wait at running back. Verdict: Value Unchanged

Olamide Zaccheaus

Though he’s flashed at times when Julio was on the sideline, Zaccheaus is a long shot to provide consistent fantasy numbers.

The 23-year-old is worth a pick in deeper dynasty leagues, but just don’t treat him as anything more than a dart throw in re-draft formats. Verdict: Small Winner

Frank Darby

Darby could carve out meaningful snaps as a rookie while faced with a fairly wide-open depth chart behind Ridley and Gage.

The sixth-rounder isn’t an eye-popping physical prospect, so he’ll need to rely on his strong route running to be a factor in the pros. He’s another deep dynasty stash. Verdict: Small Winner

Comments
Fantasy: Winners and losers from the Julio Jones trade
  Got something to say? Leave a comment below!

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox