Fantasy Football: Julio Jones, A.J. Brown 2021 Projections

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It’s official: Julio Jones is the newest member of the Tennessee Titans. The superstar wide receiver reportedly wanted out of Atlanta and is now part of arguably the best wide receiver duo in football. A.J. Brown and Julio Jones are both supreme talents, but what are their fantasy football outlooks heading into the 2021 season?

Fantasy Football: What Will Happen With Julio Jones, A.J. Brown in Tennessee?

Tennessee Titans Offensive Philosophy

Before we look at the players themselves, we first need to determine how the Tennessee Titans are going to run their offense. Successful fantasy football seasons are driven by volume just as much as talent, so let’s take a look at how often this team is going to pass the ball.

Even with Jones in town, this offense is still going to run through Derrick Henry. Mike Vrabel is an old-school coach that truly believes in the power of the run game. Last year, Tennessee had the lowest early-down passing frequency in football and threw the ball 7% less than the average offense when adjusting for game script. This was no one-year fluke, as Vrabel’s offenses have only averaged 28.1 passing attempts per game over the past three years. As long as Derrick Henry and Mike Vrabel are in town, Tennessee will always try to win on the ground.

This will be a run-first attack, but I have to assume the passing rate will increase a little bit. Put simply, you don’t give up a second-round pick and take that type of cap hit if you don’t plan on utilizing your fancy new weapon. For the sake of argument, let’s say that Tennessee goes from a -7% passing rate over expected to the -3-4% range. This should give Ryan Tannehill roughly 33 passing attempts per game, which extrapolates to approximately 560 passing attempts over a 17-game season.

Julio Jones Fantasy Football Projection

Throughout the course of his career, Julio Jones has been an absolute monster, both in fantasy and real-life football. While injuries limited his overall stat line last year, he was still one of the best receivers in the NFL when on the field. The two-time All-Pro finished third in yards per route, seventh in true catch rate, and eighth in PFF grade. Basically, this is all a long-winded way of saying that this guy can still play at a very, very high level.

Historically speaking, Julio Jones typically has a target share in the 25% range. Target share tends to be one of the stickier wide receiver stats out there, but that number can fluctuate when players change teams. However, for the sake of this projection, I don’t think Julio’s number will change all that drastically. Elite players find the way to get the ball even when they change teams (see: Hopkins, DeAndre), and Tennessee has a ton of vacated targets. Jones should be able to eat up all of the leftover volume from Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith while still earning a few extra targets for himself.

The biggest red flag for Jones is his touchdown upside. The former first-round pick is arguably the best receiver of his generation, yet he only has one season with double-digit touchdowns. Maybe this was a Matt Ryan issue and Ryan Tannehill can bring out the best in him, but for now, I expect those red-zone woes to continue, especially since Derrick Henry will still be the king in the red zone.

Final Projection: 140 targets, 94 receptions, 1,330 yards, 6 touchdowns

A.J. Brown Fantasy Football Projection

After setting the world on fire during his first two seasons in the league, many fantasy football analysts had A.J. Brown crowned as a top-five wide receiver in 2021, including me. Due to the talent, vacated targets, and underwhelming defense, I believed A.J. Brown had a realistic shot at earning that coveted 30% target share. Julio Jones completely eliminates that possibility, but it’s not the end of the world for A.J. Brown.

Even with Jones in Tennessee, Brown will still see plenty of targets come his way. Last year, Brown saw a 25.8% target share despite playing the vast majority of the season on injured knees. Now that he’s healthy and has another year of experience under his belt, I expect his target share to continue to climb upwards. Due to his youth and familiarity with Ryan Tannehill, I think he will lead the team in targets, yards, and touchdowns. While it will be a fairly even split with Jones, Brown should come away with 27-28% of the work in this offense.

Of course, we already know that Brown has what it takes to succeed in the red zone. The young superstar recorded eight touchdowns as a rookie despite dealing with a wounded Marcus Mariota in the first half of the year and hauled in 11 scores during his second season. Jones’ presence should allow for more scoring opportunities, and Brown will still be the top passing target in the red zone.

Final Projection: 155 targets, 105 receptions, 1,581 yards, 14 touchdowns

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