Thankfully, it appears that Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White won't miss significant time with an ankle sprain. But, with his status still up in the air for Week 1, Julio Jones' fantasy value should skyrocket.
On Wednesday, GM Thomas Dimitroff told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter that he hoped White would be ready for the Sept. 8 season opener against the NFC South rival New Orleans Saints:
Dimitroff was the man who made a bold draft day trade in 2011 to move up and acquire Jones, who has complemented White nicely in his first two seasons and is only improving.
From a fantasy standpoint, at least for the first game, owners have to consider Jones a true No. 1 option and a prime candidate to lead the league in receiving yards in the first game of regular season action.
Head coach Mike Smith dismissed the notion of a high ankle sprain in a subsequent report by Ledbetter, and that White would be ready for Week 1.
Even if White does play, it appears his currently questionable status will lend to him being limited in his typical capabilities. It would be unwise for Smith to push White too quickly, which should lead to more targets for Jones.
Plus, the Saints arguably had the most anemic defense in the league last season, yielding 292.6 yards through the air and 147.6 rushing yards per contest. They ranked 31st and 32nd in those categories respectively.
Even with a fresh defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan transitioning the unit to a 3-4 scheme, it remains to be seen if the adjustment can be made adequately enough to spark a substantial turnaround.
That's not exactly a recipe for success against the high-powered Atlanta offense triggered by Pro Bowl QB Matt Ryan. The arrival of running back Steven Jackson and complementary scat back Jacquizz Rodgers should ignite a rushing attack that was just 29th in the league in 2012.
Between accounting for those two, and the imminent threat tight end Tony Gonzalez is as a receiver, New Orleans defense will have its hands full even in the friendly confines of the Superdome.
Cornerback Keenan Lewis figures to match up with Jones. As physical as Lewis is, even he can't consistently deny his 6'3", 220-pound prospective counterpart. Plus, the Saints' safety play is still far from solidified.
Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins are still listed as starters, with first-round rookie Kenny Vaccaro currently a third-string, per the team's official website.
With the way Jones can stretch the field deep and how he can get leverage and make tough catches between the numbers, there aren't many ways to stop him. Ryan is a very wise quarterback who won't put Jones in many bad positions, and will methodically pick apart a defense before hitting Jones for explosive plays.
The last time we saw Jones, he snagged 11 receptions for 182 yards and two touchdowns in the NFC Championship game loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Even without White at 100 percent, or if he doesn't hit the field and serve as an effective diversion, Jones is good enough at this point to be a no-brainer start.
Facing what is still likely a leaky Saints defense—and serving as the beneficiary of a revamped running game that will open up play-action opportunities—expect Jones to be one of the top fantasy performers in the first week of 2013.