Sometimes you have to buck the trend in fantasy football, and realize that the hype machine can affect value negatively and positively in such a way that you can benefit from a player being higher or lower than he should be. Take this, for example…
If I told you that you could select a receiver who will average 17 points per game in a PPR, or 11 points per game in a standard scoring league one round after a receiver who will put up the same sort of numbers, you would obviously see the value in waiting, right? Well that’s the scenario now with two of the top wideouts in fantasy football, according to Fantasy Football Calculator’s ADP, as Roddy White is going a full round after Julio Jones.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with admiring the talent Julio Jones possesses. He’s tall, quick, and seems to have a magnetic attraction to the end zone. He’s younger than White, he’s faster than White, and his share of the targets in the Atlanta offense skyrocketed in 2012. But despite all of this, he still finished within a handful of points of White in both standard and PPR scoring formats last year.
Still worried that you’ll regret passing on Julio? Here’s three reasons why you should feel safe targeting Roddy instead.
Roddy White Can Still Deliver With Fewer Targets
Last year, Roddy White saw a sharp decline in targets, as Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones both merited the focus of the offense over the course of the season. But the quality of the targets he received were much higher, as Matt Ryan flourished with the bounty of options he had on offense.
Roddy was thrown at almost 40 fewer times according to ESPN.com, but caught only 8 fewer passes than in 2011, and actually had more receiving yards thanks to a higher yards per reception average this past year. Compare that to Julio Jones, who saw a decline in his per-catch numbers in 2012 as compared to 2011. So while Julio got more looks, he did less with the average target in 2012.
So even if you believe that Julio Jones is going to receive even more targets than he did in 2012 (which is certainly possible), there’s no track record to prove that Julio will do more per opportunity. And likewise, if you’re concerned that Roddy will have a worse season thanks to fewer targets, you can rest assured that he demonstrated an ability to flourish in the new-look Atlanta offense, even when he’s not the only show in town at wide receiver.
And a final note: Roddy doesn’t drop the ball as often as Julio does. Roddy is among the elite receivers in terms of being sure-handed, ranking among the top 10 last season using Pro Football Focus’ drop rate statistic. More of his targets will turn into catches because he’s much less likely to drop a catchable target than Julio.
Despite His Deep Threat Speed, Julio is Not a Lock to Get More Yards
It would be easy to assume that Julio Jones would be consistently targeted deeply down the field, especially when you think back on some of his biggest plays over his first two years in the NFL. But the statistics don’t prove that to be true.
According to Pro Football Focus’ “Depth Per Aimed Throw” statistic (subscription required), which measures how far downfield a receiver is on his average target, White and Jones both received their average target between 12-13 yards downfield. This is because Julio is used on shorter routes to use his speed in the open field with the football, rather than simply running “9” routes over and over.
So don’t let the allure of Jones’ speed and size distract you from the fact that the Falcons run an offense where their receivers don’t receive incredibly deep passes regularly. If you want to select Julio Jones on the premise of him being a deep threat, you’re going to be disappointed at the amount of screen plays and short routes he runs. This keeps him involved and increases his value, but it also means he’s more like Roddy White, as the two are often catching the ball on shorter routes than big play receivers like Torrey Smith, Vincent Jackson and Mike Wallace.
Last year, the duo had extremely similar yards per catch numbers, which was due to an increase from Roddy and a decrease from Julio versus the season prior. So I refer to point one once again, as Roddy can do more with less, and Julio has not proven that he’s going to post gaudy per catch numbers with an increased workload.
You Can Take a Better Player than Julio in the Second Round
The first few rounds of your fantasy draft are crucial, as you build a foundation for the rest of your roster in the early picks. If you have a solid base, you can take fliers on sleepers later in the draft (and if you need advice on some sleepers, check out my article on the topic by clicking here). But if you aren’t comfortable with your first few picks, you are forced to be more conservative with your backups to make sure your entire team isn’t overly volatile. And when it comes to volatility, selecting Julio Jones in the second round is among the more volatile options available.
Taking another look at Fantasy Football Calculator’s ADP for standard scoring leagues, we see that Jimmy Graham is being selected back-to-back with Julio Jones. And as I have opined before on this site, I believe that drafting Jimmy Graham is one of the smartest and safest moves you can make early in your fantasy drafts.
Starting your draft with Doug Martin, Jimmy Graham, and Roddy White rather than Doug Martin, Julio Jones, and DeMarco Murray is a much more secure and consistent foundation. By selecting the first trio, you have two of the top-3 players at their positions by selecting Graham in the second, and you find yourself not settling for a top-10 receiver in Jones and hoping he outperforms his prior performances in a crowded offense.
So as you prepare for your fantasy drafts this month, remember that you want as much value as possible with every pick. And as far as I can tell, there’s no value in taking Julio Jones a full round ahead of Roddy White. So use your second round pick on a good running back or an elite tight end, or you could even pick up Aaron Rodgers if your league favors quarterbacks. But leave Julio behind, and let someone else take on that risk.