Counting Down the Top 25 Players in the NFC South: No. 11, Julio Jones

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterJuly 18, 2012

Julio Jones is being heralded as one of the rising stars in the NFL.
Julio Jones is being heralded as one of the rising stars in the NFL.Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Welcome back to “Counting Down the Top 25 Players in the NFC South.” To see the entire list as it unfolds, scroll down to the bottom of this page. To see the rules and ranking criteria, click here.

Julio Jones opened up a lot of eyes as a rookie for the Atlanta Falcons in 2011. After the team paid a king's ransom to move up in the 2011 draft to get him, Jones delighted by grabbing 54 passes for 959 yards and eight touchdowns.

Those numbers could just be the tip of an iceberg as Jones might have more upside than any player in the NFC South. But upside is only a fun tool for argument's sake. Jones has to do something with that upside before he moves up higher on this list.

All signs point towards that happening.

Just by using easy math, Jones should incredibly add to his numbers in 2012. He missed four entire games his rookie season with hamstring issues. He also missed time in two other games as he was forced to leave the field early.

By giving Jones just those games to accumulate touchdown catches and receiving yards, he could easily raise his numbers by 25 percent. Most people think he can do more.

Last year Jones didn't get to work with the team during the offseason because of the lockout. He jumped onto the practice field during training camp and learned on the fly.

Heading into the 2012 season, Jones should reap the rewards of spending the offseason getting in sync with quarterback Matt Ryan. This might be the last time for a while Jones lands outside the top 10 of any preseason list in the NFL.


The 2012 Bleacher Report Top 25 Players in the NFC South List

11. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

12. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers

13. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers

14. Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints

15. Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

16. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons

17. James Anderson, LB, Carolina Panthers

18. Jahri Evans, OG, New Orleans Saints

19. Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Atlanta Falcons

20. Jon Beason, LB, Carolina Panthers

21. John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons

22. Charles Johnson, DE, Carolina Panthers

23. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

24. Curtis Lofton, LB, New Orleans Saints

25. Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Top 25 List (by team)

Carolina Panthers: 5

Atlanta Falcons:  2

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 3

New Orleans Saints: 3


Top 25 List (by position)

LB: 4

DE: 3

WR: 3

RB: 2

OG: 1

QB: 1

TE: 1