While he was on Sportscenter today, Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice named Julio Jones as the receiver who will have a breakout year this season. Normally, things like this are not newsworthy, but if you’re a receiver, there isn’t anyone’s praise you want more than Jerry Rice’s. Jones has unlimited athletic talent and caught 54 passes for 959 yards and 8 touchdowns last season in 13 games, good for 66 catches for 1180 yards and 10 touchdowns over 16 games. That was despite struggling through injuries all year and being a rookie off a lockout shortened offseason.
All you have to do is look at his final 5 games to see the kind of upside he has. He caught 24 passes for 461 yards and 6 touchdowns in those 5 games. Last year, he was the clear #2 to Roddy White, averaging 7.0 targets per game, as opposed to 10.9 per game by Roddy White. With Dirk Koetter coming in and changing the offense to a more downfield passing offense, Jones, a young possession receiver, should see more targets this year and White, an aging possession receiver, should see less. This makes sense as their offense was much more efficient last year when they threw to Jones last year (10.5 YPA) than when they threw to White (7.4 YPA). I second Rice’s prediction that Jones will have a breakout season. He’s my #5 fantasy receiver.