The Atlanta Falcons sorely missed Julio Jones last season, but it appears the young wide receiver will return to his Pro Bowl form after his first-half performance against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday.
Jones caught a quick slant, pulled off a wicked spin move, broke multiple tackles and showed off his breakaway speed en route to a 52-yard touchdown. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan targeted Jones a team-high five times in the first half, and he had two receptions for 63 yards.
All of this looks good for Jones' fantasy value, which is rightly in question due to his injury history. As long as he remains healthy, though, Jones is bound to be one of the NFL's elite receivers in 2014.
CBS' Pete Prisco believes Jones is destined for a monster season:
Julio Jones will put up unreal numbers this season.— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) August 23, 2014
ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure pointed out how Jones underwent a second right foot surgery to miss 11 games in 2013. McClure's report also documented what Jones had to say about his rather tentative return to game action after extensive rehabilitation:
It's just a part of it, just mentally...Just being back out there on that field and being cautious, you know. Those guys try to come up and tackle you. You're still trying to protect your foot. But the doctors said everything is 100 percent. And I just have to believe in them and just get my confidence back.
Who will lead the Falcons in receiving this season?
Roddy White will command his share of targets from Ryan, but Jones is the more explosive option and has the greater fantasy upside. Now that legendary pass-catching tight end Tony Gonzalez has retired, there ought to be plenty more balls flying Jones' way.
This is only Jones' fourth season, and he's just 25 years old. Especially for owners in keeper leagues, he is a precious commodity to have. The combination of ball skills, speed, finesse and power Jones possesses rivals any of the NFL's best athletes at the receiver position. Expect Jones to go well over 1,000 yards this season.