We continue our series of my projected top 25 players in the NFC South for the 2012 season with No. 11:
Julio Jones, wide receiver, Atlanta
What he did in 2011: The Falcons gave up a lot to trade up to get Jones last year. But his rookie season gave some pretty strong indications they made the right move. Jones caught 54 passes for 959 yards and eight touchdowns. His 17.8-yard average per catch was particularly impressive. Jones easily would have had over 1,000 receiving yards, but he missed three full games and a good chunk of another with an injury.
Why he’s No. 11 in 2012: I’m putting the second-year receiver ahead of teammate Roddy White, who came in at No. 19. I know that will prompt some debate, which is healthy. I don’t mean to slight White in any way. I still think he’s a great receiver and he and Jones can form one of the league’s best tandems. But why am I putting Jones ahead of White, who clearly has a long and impressive track record? I’m projecting. White is 30 and has some good years left, but a gradual slowdown could come at any moment. Even if the slowdown doesn’t come, Jones could leap past White simply because of his rare talents. Unlike last year, Jones has had a full offseason to work with quarterback Matt Ryan. I also think new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is going to find more ways to take advantage of Jones’ explosiveness.