The Atlanta Falcons offensive line is once again decimated by injuries, and fantasy owners of Julio Jones have reason to break the glass over the panic button.
After a blazing start to the season, Jones reminded us why he's one of the NFL's most prolific wide receivers, racking up two 100-yard performances and three touchdowns over his first three games. Unfortunately, as injuries continued to pile up in Atlanta, the offense began to lack efficiency, and Jones' production suffered as a result.
Over the ensuing four contests, Jones reached the 100-yard mark just once and has not scored another touchdown. Due to the lack of protection for quarterback Matt Ryan, Jones' average yards per catch have begun to decrease as well. Ryan doesn't have time to sit in the pocket, and Jones' ability to take the top off a defense has become difficult to utilize.
The receiver's disappearing act led to plenty of tweets like this one from Jamie Dukes:
This limits the wide receiver's upside on a weekly basis, but due to his excellent skill set, we should still expect a few big weeks from this fantasy stud. There's only one problem: There's no way to tell when he'll come up big and when he'll remain quiet.
Jones' fantasy owners should strongly consider trading the wide receiver; however, his value is lower than it should be heading into Week 8 due to a string of average performances. Adding to his low value is an unfavorable matchup against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Detroit's defense is ranked first in yards allowed and second in points allowed per game. Solid against the pass, the Lions are ranked sixth in yards allowed through the air and continue to pressure quarterbacks consistently, piling up 21 sacks in 2014.
These numbers are impressive following a game against Drew Brees and the high-octane New Orleans Saints. Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com tweeted the full rankings:
From a fantasy perspective, the Lions are just as good, allowing 15.1 points per game to opposing wide receivers—the third fewest in the league, via ESPN.com. Not many fantasy owners will offer much for Jones if he has another rough outing against Detroit.
Patience is a virtue in this situation.
Luckily, Jones has a good chance to bounce back in a big way in Week 9 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Earlier this season, Jones teed off on this defense, racking up nine receptions for 161 yards and two touchdowns. If he puts up numbers remotely close to that, his value will skyrocket once again.
This is where fantasy owners will need to make a very difficult decision: Do you trade Jones or stick with him for the remainder of the season?
That will come down to personal preference. If you're concerned about Atlanta's offensive line and Jones' lack of production as a result, move the wide receiver—you're likely to get a great deal in return. On the other hand, sticking with him may not be a bad idea with upcoming games against the Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals (and their weak pass defenses).
Don't get cute and pull Jones out of your fantasy lineup in Week 8. His skill set makes him a must-start wide receiver each and every week. Even if he does struggle against the Lions on Sunday, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for both Jones and his fantasy owners.