Julio Jones is the latest member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which means it’s time to see how his presence affects the fantasy football landscape. Jones is coming off the worst season of his career and is no longer the player he once was, but does he have enough left in his tank for one more season of fantasy relevance?
2022 Fantasy Football Profile: Julio Jones
Julio Jones the Player
It goes without saying that Julio Jones is no longer an All-Pro type of player. The former first-round pick spent the better part of the past two seasons battling foot injuries, as he’s only played in 19 of a possible 33 games since 2020. 2021 was especially tough for Jones, as he finished the year with career lows in targets (48), receptions (31), yards (438), and touchdowns (one).
While that might look bad on the surface, a deeper dive into the numbers suggests that Jones isn’t quite as washed as the volume stats imply. According to PlayerProfiler, Jones finished the season with 1.94 yards per route run, a 93.9% true catch rate, and a 25.4% air yards share. Additionally, Jones also finished the season with a 76.5 PFF grade, good for 27th in the NFL. These numbers are a far cry from what Jones could do at his peak, but they show that he can still be a productive member of an NFL offense when healthy.
I will say though — last year was the first year of Julio Jones’ career he had a Yards Per Route Run figure of less than 2.00.
However, his 1.84 mark matched Stefon Diggs’ and was better than that of Diontae Johnson, McLaurin, Evans, Allen, Hopkins, Thielen, Cooper, etc.
— Mike Kennedy (@MikeKennedyNFL) July 26, 2022
Based on these metrics, it’s safe to assume that a healthy version of Julio Jones is still an average receiver. Great players find a way to produce regardless of situation, but average players can still put together strong fantasy football seasons when the stars align. So, does Tampa Bay provide that golden opportunity?
Julio Jones Fit With Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After boasting one of the deepest groups of offensive weapons over the past few seasons, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers suddenly find themselves without many proven commodities. Chris Godwin tore his ACL late in 2021 and almost certainly will not be ready for the start of the season. Even if he can suit up, he probably won’t look anything like his old self until midway through the season, at the absolute earliest.
Rob Gronkowski, meanwhile, recently announced his retirement, and the Jones signing heavily implies that the Buccaneers do not expect him to come back later in the season. As for the rest of the depth, Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller, and Jaelon Darden all had opportunities to step up last year with Godwin and Antonio Brown out of the picture, and each guy fell flat on their face. Barring something completely unforeseen, none of those players will make a fantasy football impact in 2022.
This leaves Brady working with superstar Mike Evans and a serviceable role player in Russell Gage. Evans will remain the star of this passing attack, but Jones and Gage should battle for the second spot in the offense. Based on their historical trends, Jones will probably see more targets, but Gage will finish with more touchdowns as both players end their seasons as high-end WR3’s with plenty of startable weeks before Godwin comes back.
As of this posting, it’s too early to know where Jones will go in the average draft. Personally speaking, I’d be fine with taking him in the 10th round or later as a dart throw with decent upside. He’s still a solid player with a decent opportunity in front of him, and if anyone can bring out the best in a player, it’s Tom Brady. However, there is a chance that name recognition will cause his ADP to skyrocket. If that happens, you’re better off looking somewhere else for wide receiver help.