Believe it or not Julio Jones was a top fantasy wide receiver in the last quarter of this past season. Averaging 18.25 fantasy points over the final four regular season games he helped fantasy teams make the playoffs, he then gave those teams great performances of 18 and 19 points in weeks 15 and 16 (for those of you who play through a 16 week season).
We all know that Roddy White is the top dog in Atlanta. For now. Imagine if Julio could cut into the mass volume of targets that White gets every year (he's led the league in targets with 181 and 179 each of the past two seasons). Julio averaged 17.8 yards per reception in his rookie season, better than WhiTEs career high of 16.9. If White hauled in 90 receptions and Jones caught 70, we could be looking at similar stat lines. Even though White caught 100 balls last season to Jones' 54, they both had 8 touchdowns, proving that Jones is the better scoring threat.
With White you'll get consistency -- around 1200 yards and maybe 10 touchdowns. With Jones you get an extremely high ceiling that (over a healthy 16-game season) could end up being a 1400 yard-13 touchdown guy.
Jones and AJ Green will be compared to each other throughout each of their careers. Even though Green played 15 games last season to Jones' 13, the stats are very similar: Green had 98 more receiving yards, Jones had one more touchdown; 56 rushing yards for Julio and 53 rushing yards for Green. While neither are possession receivers, they have very different games; Julio is a catch-and-run threat and Green is a get-up-and-get-it receiver. That's not to say Green can't run or Jones can't catch a jump ball; they both have extremely strong, well-balanced games. The only worry I have about Green is that Andy Dalton may succumb to a sophomore slump (as many quarterbacks do). Acquiring a running back in the draft should help the Bengals make it easier for Dalton and open up space for Green downfield.
Going into next season I will probably have those three ranked in the order of White, Jones, Green. Any of the three could put up more fantasy points than the other two and all are great picks to make. I look for White to come off the board somewhere in mid-late round two or early third round. Jones (who will be in the 10-20 range of most people's wide receiver rankings) will come off the board in the fifth round of most drafts (I'd take in fourth). Green will fall in between the two Falcons, but closer to Jones and will be taken in the fourth round of most fantasy drafts.
Sleeper Wide Receivers for 2012
Free agency is settling down and (outside of Vincent Jackson to the Buccaneers) the wide receiver position has remained quieter than expected. Are there any old faces in new places that could be good sleeper picks in your fantasy draft in 2012?
Starting off, I like the move of Robert Meachem to the San Diego Chargers. With Jackson gone AJ Smith filled his obvious void at receiver stockpiling pass catchers left and right; Meachem, Eddie Royal, Micheal Spurlock, Roscoe Parrish. While Spurlock and Parrish might not even make the team (they will mainly compete for a spot as a returner) Royal and Meachem join a suddenly deep wide receiver core that includes Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Brown. Obviously Smith believed that he didn't have a number one receiver in Floyd or Brown, at least not right now, and Meachem got the big contract. It looks like AJ Smith sees the former first rounder as a potential number one; someone who's never been given the opportunity while catching passes from Drew Brees, who spreads the ball around like no one else.
I also like Laurent Robinson to the Jaguars. Most fantasy analysts will probably look for him to truly come into his potential in 2013, when it is a make it or break it year for Blaine Gabbert; and I agree. Though I think I like him more than most will heading into the 2012 season. We know that opposing teams have to respect the run as long as Maurice-Jones Drew is playing. We also know that they desperately needed a number one wideout, Mike Thomas and Mike Sims-Walker both failed in that role the past couple of years. Thomas could still make it as a solid number two wide receiver for them and Robinson would flourish as a number one. If it looks like he will be targeted as a number three fantasy wide receiver on draft day he could end up having fantastic sleeper value.
I'm not that big a fan of the Brandon Lloyd to the Patriots move. Most people probably see the Lloyd-McDaniels-Brady matching as fantasy gold, and it could be, but I don't see it happening. He won't lead the team in receptions as long as Welker is healthy. He most likely won't lead the team in receiving yards as he competes with Welker, Gronkowski and Hernandez. I don't think he will become invisible like Chad Ochocinco did in New England, but I think he busts this season. It's hard to follow up the 1448 yard 11 touchdown season he had back in 2010, even two years later. At the right price he could be a match-up play certain weeks, but I don't see him as an every-week play like he was two years ago.