julio jones ball2

Marquee players break frequently during an NFL season. Just over a year ago we were coming to terms with the loss of Darrelle Revis for the remainder of the 2012 season, and a few months later Robert Griffin III’s knee shredding would put 2013 in doubt. A year before that, Adrian Peterson began his own hard, long road.

But it’s still jarring when a top player at his position is suddenly gone, which dropped on us yesterday with Julio Jones likely — and now almost certainly — set to miss the remainder of the season. Yesterday as fantasy footballers digitally joined hands to morn the loss of Jones, I tried to dry your tears with some soft waiver wire tissue (hey, Keenan Allen is pretty good…*punches self*). Now, through the aid of more fancy stats, let’s get that long cry over with for goof.

You know that for at least a few more days until Week 6 gets rolling, Jones is currently the league leader in receptions with 41, and he’s second in receiving yards with 580, only narrowly behind Jimmy Graham’s 593. But he’s also fourth in +20 yard receptions with nine, and through five weeks he’s one of only three receivers with a catch of 80 yards or more.

Much of that yardage has come due to Jones’ speed, and not just his ability to get downfield in a real hurry. In the open field he’s elusive, and he’s highly effective on crossing routes, or anything that puts him in space. That’s led to 231 yards after the catch, with is nearly 40 percent of his overall yardage, and good enough for second in the league behind only Demaryius Thomas.

He was catching balls at a 69 percent rate while being targeted 11.8 times per game (59 overall). So what’s the resulting impact of his removal from the Falcons’ offense? Well, if he’s healthy, Roddy White’s targets will clearly double (he could miss Week 7, even after Atlanta’s bye), and Tony Gonzalez’s role will increase quickly too as Harry Douglas ascends to start.

That’s great and all, but what of Matt Ryan, the highly drafted quarterback who’s suddenly without a primary target? Give us your worst, ESPN Stats and Information:

Matt Ryan had completed 16-of-26 throws to Jones when he was deeper than 10 yards downfield. The 61.5 percent accuracy rate ranked fourth-best in the NFL for a receiver on throws of that length.

Jones’ 16 receptions were second-most in the NFL and his 112 yards gained after those catches ranked first.

Ryan will have to find a new target. His average throw was 10 yards downfield to Jones, but barely more than half that long to the other Falcons pass-catchers.

Big gulps all around.

Until bones are mended in Atlanta, Ryan carries a lot of risk. Too much for me, especially as the weeks start to tick by now, and the fantasy playoffs will arrive shortly.

More notes, stray thoughts, and other such randomness

DeSean Jackson thinks Darelle Revis sucks, or something

The small disturbance in the Earth’s normal tectonic movement yesterday afternoon was caused by a quote bomb being dropped, and of course it came from the mouth of one DeSean Jackson. You see, for us media folk the formula is simple: athlete says a thing that will get people either angry or excited, and then said thing is plastered all over the Internet, and you — the noble scribe — can go home for the day and watch re-runs of Inspector Gadget.

I’ll certainly concede that in the past format of this here blog space when the content was more news-centric and a few posts were barfed out per hour during the day, I was guilty of unloading the quote bomb. There’s a science to it: the juice must be extracted, with all the surrounding nothingness which gets in the way cut off and discarded. Sort of like this:

“He’s playing ball. He’s a great player, one of the best cornerbacks in the league. I love facing guys that have the ability to be a shutdown corner. Anytime you have guys like that going into games, it gets the best out of you. You want to step your game up. He’s in a little bit of a different defensive scheme, playing [in Cover 2] a little bit more, he’s moving inside, different things like that.”

“I’m definitely sure his coaches are confident in him, but I don’t think he can run with me, I don’t think he’s as fast as me. So it will be a challenge, man. He’s a great player, nothing to take away from him. I’m just focused on what we have to do here, which is win a football game. We’re not going to make it into a one-on-one battle, we’re not going to [make it] me versus Revis. It’s the Eagles versus Tampa Bay, and at the end of the game, as long as we’re winning, that’s all that matters to me.”

That’s Jackson yesterday discussing his upcoming matchup this weekend with Darrelle Revis, arguably the best cornerback in the game, and Jackson-Revis may be the best individual matchup of the season. When the quote bomb first dropped, you only saw the bolded words in headlines and tweets. Jackson said those words, and they’re the most interesting of all the words in his comment.

But he said the rest of it too, and when read it in full Jackson actually compliments Revis, deflects attention away from himself, and says that — like us — he’s looking forward to the matchup. It’s those bolded words, though, that are extracted, and used as more ammunition to paint Jackson as a self-absorbed jerk. And he might just be that and more, but this does nothing to show it.

Staying in Philadelphia…

LeSean McCoy is making you a pretty happy fantasy bro through five weeks. His 700 yards from scrimmage works out to 140 yards per week, and he’s on pace for just shy of 600 receiving yards.

That’s great, but these numbers were still at least mildly disturbing this past Sunday during the Eagles’ win over the Giants…

Normally I’d say “MEHHHH”, but Nick Foles’ presence and the inevitable decline of the read-option in Philly with Michael Vick out for at least one game won’t be kind to McCoy, especially against a strong Bucs run defense, the only front seven that still hasn’t given up a touchdown.

The Gronk returns?


Alright, let’s keep our composure here. Rob Gronkowski is maybe, probably, oh please oh please oh please returning this week, and if that happens his total absence will end at five games. That’s slightly longer than what we first expected and hoped for, but it still easily justifies the early-ish pick you spent that was still likely a significant bargain.

I wrote this hot take repeatedly in August and I’ll drop it once more now: staying healthy may be a problem from Gronkowski, but when he’s in one piece he can produce just as much if not more than Jimmy Graham, which makes him well worth the investment even with the missed time.

Apprehension is a natural state for the fantasy football creature when an injury is clouding a players’ outlook, but once more, let’s consider the numbers Gronkowski posted last year even while missing five games: 55 catches, 790 yards, and 11 touchdowns.

Oh, and he has to be owned in all White Boy Dance Leagues.

Leave my NFL alone

That’s the common feeling whenever change is discussed, as it was yesterday in abundance during the league’s fall meeting. Inevitably, the subject of a London team came up when a third game was added in that part of the world for next season, and commissioner Roger Goodell’s response was hesitant at best.

But it’s the possibility of adding two teams to the postseason starting in 2015 that has many undergarments knotted. Goodell called that one of the priorities for the competition committee, while also saying this:

“If expanding the postseason would allow other teams to get into the dance, and they have the potential of going on and winning the Super Bowl, that’s a good thing for fans, that a good thing competitively.”

That’s true, Roger. Fans in any city where playoff football is being played will obviously salivate and turn into rabid individuals. But while that will pad the already sufficiently stuffed pockets of the league and its owners, it will also cheapen the product overall.

The appeal of the playoffs is exclusivity. Even if the appearance is short-lived, as a team you’re accomplishing something significant merely by being there, because only six teams from each conference are invited. Now if two more teams are added, the league will be creeping closer to the NBA and NHL, formats where just over half the league qualifies for the playoffs.