Fantasy Football Stud — Julio Jones, WR
Julio Jones is ready to bust out in 2013 as a top three or four receiver in the NFL, if he isn’t already. Last season, the 6’3″ 220 pound second year receiver out of Alabama caught 79 passes for 1,198 yards and 10 touchdowns. Still, Jones has so much untapped potential. Until the playoffs, he went a stretch of five games to end the season where he didn’t have 100 yards receiving, but you have to give him the benefit of the doubt after his record performance in the playoffs against the 49ers, catching 11 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns.
I’m extremely impressed by the physical abilities of Julio Jones, and I think he’s just going to explode this year. It wouldn’t shock me to see some players in fantasy take a risk on him as a first round pick, but if you can get him in the second round, you are doing well. He should be a safe bet for 80 catches, 1,200 yards, and double digit touchdowns.
Jones could establish himself this year as one of those receivers who is weekly one of the hardest to play against in fantasy football because he has a nose for the end zone and he’s progressing at a rapid rate.
Fantasy Risk — Tony Gonzalez, TE
I hate to put Gonzalez in this category because I think so highly of him and what he’s been able to do in his NFL career, and it may be stupid to put him here after he just got done having 93 catches for 930 yards and eight touchdowns. However, I think Gonzalez could take a back seat this year to the top receivers on this team, Roddy White and Julio Jones. I believe White and Jones to be absolute WR1 options for any fantasy team, even though they play on the same team and that’s tough to accomplish.
As much as the Falcons throw the ball, you have to expect Gonzalez will see his touches but I think the Falcons are going to get Jones more looks than they did last year, and that could result in a few less targets for Gonzalez.
The reason he’s a risk, though, is because he could also be great. Gonzalez is one of the most consistent fantasy tight ends in the history of the game. This year, at age 37, I’m that guy who is calling him a risk.
Fantasy Sleeper — Steven Jackson, RB
Jackson was the workhorse in the Rams’ offense since he was drafted there in 2003, and this year, he has a chance to play the same role for the Falcons. Michael Turner has been really productive in the featured back role for Atlanta, but the Falcons got a huge upgrade with the signing of Steven Jackson.
Jackson has had 1,000 or more yards for eight straight years, but where he could see significant improvement with the Falcons is in the touchdown category. Over the last three years, Jackson only had 15 total rushing touchdowns with the Rams, which is a pretty low number when you consider the amount of star running backs who are going for 12-15 rushing touchdowns per season.
I think in Atlanta’s offense, Jackson can be a really effective goal line back as well as a guy who can get you at worst 75 yards per game, and I think he can also be a thousand yard back with Atlanta. This was a huge addition for them, and despite Jackson’s six 100+ yard games over the last two seasons, I think he can actually rejuvenate his career a bit with Matt Ryan and company.