Well, There is nine more Sundays before NFL Kickoff. We all know Patriots will return to Super Bowl this year according the trends and the consistency of team led by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. We can’t wait for the season to come.
In most categories, there hasn’t been a repeat leader in quite some time. That does not mean that Julio Jones is not close to doing so in multiple consecutive years, but he has a case to make for the title in each of the last five seasons. Since 2014, Jones hasn’t a total less than 1,409. Over the span, he has led the league in receiving three times and he averaged 1,598 yards. He reunite with Dirk Koetter this season for the first time since 2014, which is probably why he’s Fanduel’s favorite to reclaim the top stop.
He is a heavy favorite but the competition will be a lot more closer than you think.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (+600)
There are very few receivers that can stake a claim for the best in the game by looking at the stats and eye test, but Jones is one of those guys. At 6’3 and 220 pounds, with an NFL Wide Receiver size frame, natural ability, and you get a guy who’s cemented himself as a one in a generational talent at receiver. In his eight-year career, Julio Jones has averaged 87 catches for 1,341 yards and six touchdowns per season. Over the five seasons, he hasn’t finished lower than third in receiving yards. At that point, it a pretty safe bet that he’ll at the very least, be in the mix for the crown again this season.
He’s also set to reunite with former NFL offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who took over as the Falcons offensive coordinator after he was fired from the head coaching position in Tampa Bay. Koestler ran the Falcons offense in 2014 when Jones posted the third-highest yardage total of his career. With Calvin Ridley, Mohammed Sanu and Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper in the mix for catches, his receptions might dip slightly, but in turn, the offense will feature more options that demand attention. Still, Jones has been a model of consistency for some time now. Barring any unforeseen developments, you’re not going to find a better value than Jones at +600.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1200)
New Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians has worked with four starting quarterbacks since his tenure as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator began in 2007. Over that span, each of those quarterbacks finished in the top three for average depth per target during their respective runs as their team’s starter. Most recently with the Cardinals, Arians worked with both Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton as starters. Essentially, Arians runs an offense predicated on slinging the ball.
In 2018, Jameis Winston’s aDOT was 10.9, which was a career high. The year before, he was at 10.7 over 438 passing attempts. Jamies Winston likes to throw the ball deep with regularity, which is what quarterbacks in Arians-run offenses have done since the beginning. What does that mean for Mike Evans? It means he’s going to be targeted deep down the field pretty often. Obviously, that could equate to some lofty yardage totals. Last season, Evans’ yards per catch total was the highest it’s been since 2015. He finished third in receiving yards at 1,524 on 86 catches. That was the lowest total among the top-ten finishers in yardage. Even if Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard take a step forward this season, Evans has proven he can produce with less opportunity. In Arians’ offense, though, he could see his potential maximized in a lethal pass-first system.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers (+1300)
Breaking News. Antonio Brown is heading to play for Oakland Raiders. We all know that news.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is set to become the number-one option in Pittsburgh. That’s a role the last inheritor thrived in during his first season. Obviously, comparing players is never all-encompassing, because talent level and skill set can’t be necessarily measured by any sort of number. So, to clarify, I’m simply looking at Antonio Brown’s first season as Big Ben’s go-to option after the departure of Mike Wallace, from the perspective of the role he was in. He was a fourth-year player at the time, Smith-Schuster is going to be a third-year guy this season, but their numbers as the No. 2 receivers are notably similar. In the two years that Brown played as the presumptive second-receiver, he appeared in 29 games, averaging 67.5 catches for 947 yards and 3.5 touchdowns per season. Smith-Schuster appeared in 30 games, averaging 84.5 catches for 1,171 yards and seven touchdowns. Smith-Schuster did have the benefit of playing opposite Antonio Brown in the midst of his prime, but Wallace was no slouch on the other side of Brown either. The argument in this comparison could certainly come down to usage, but if you broke down the numbers by a per-catch basis, each receiver had a profound impact on their respective options as an understudy to someone else.
After Wallace left for Miami in 2013, Brown finished as the second-leading receiver in the NFL behind Josh Gordon. He very could’ve been the leading receiver if Gordon hadn’t gone on the tear he did, but Brown’s usage skyrocketed. He went from 106 targets to 167, which bumped his receptions from 66 to 110. He also posted a then-career-high in yardage with 1,499 and eight touchdowns. If that’s the role in store for Smith-Schuster, he could register even higher totals given what he did last season. His role as Big Ben’s number one could make all the difference when the dust settles on the yardage race.
Dark Horse: Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys (+3400)
Already finished in the top-10 once in his career, led the Cowboys in receiving yard with 725 yards and six touchdowns in nine games. If you multiply Amari Cooper’s average yards per game by a 16-game season, he finishes with 1,289 yards – that would’ve put him eight yards behind Antonio Brown as the 11th-ranked receiver in terms of yardage. That’s assuming every game is average. He’s already talked about his desire for a 2,000-yard season, so if his usage reflects that of last year, he’ll probably be in for some monster games.
Cover The Spread: NFL Receiver Pick
With the change between Antonio Brown heading to Oakland Raiders and Juju moving to No.1 option, I expect Julio Jones to continue his dominance with Falcons.
Expert Pick: Julio Jones: +600