Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones a top five fantasy football pick?

Dec 20, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 20, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Atlanta Falcons star receiver Julio Jones has become a top-five fantasy football pick.

The strategy at the top of fantasy football drafts has always been straightforward, from the game’s genesis to modern times: take the elite running back and build the team around him.

However, things look to be changing this upcoming year; fantasy football is undergoing a transition. No longer is it a foregone conclusion that the best RBs will be selected at the very top of the draft, in standard leagues; instead, 2016 looks to be the beginning of wide receiver era.

READ MORE: Devonta Freeman a fantasy first-rounder?

Many of the major fantasy football sites, from ESPN to Yahoo to, do not have a running back as the top player ranked. Even up until last year, not select a running back number one overall in standard leagues would’ve been a blasphemous proposition. And to this day, the old school fantasy player will swear by the strategy of building around the elite running back.

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This season, Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown is the consensus number one overall projected player, by all of the sites, and by almost all of the experts (in both standard and PPR leagues). It’s not without reason that the charismatic Brown is ranked number one, he’s been the most consistent fantasy player in the NFL the past three years, is very durable, and will get many passes thrown his way with number two WR Martavis Bryant suspended for the year.

The reason for this shakeup can be described using one word: durability. Last season, all of the running backs (not named Adrian Peterson) taken at the top of drafts were either busts or suffered season ending injuries. Wideouts don’t get hit as often, and are therefore physically healthier overall: Antonio Brown, for example, has missed just one game in the past three seasons.

Those who operate under that aforementioned old school fantasy mentality will probably look toward either Pittsburgh RB Le’Veon Bell or Rams RB Todd Gurley with the top pick, but it seems like the general consensus will lean toward the new school brand of making the wide receiver selection.

The elite crop of WRs is ever prevalent even after Brown, in the rankings. New York Giants’ WR Odell Beckham Jr. is ranked as the second best fantasy player for the upcoming season by Yahoo,, and ESPN. The Atlanta Falcons’ own Julio Jones is also within the top five for all three sites.

A couple of years ago, there would normally be a maximum of two wide receivers taken in the first round of standard league drafts, and that’s after all of the bona fide RB1s were already off the board. This season, up to half of the first round selections (in 12 team leagues) are projected to slot in a receiver: with Deandre Hopkins, A.J. Green, and Dez Bryant joining Brown, Beckham, and Jones.

There is also some disagreement as to who should be the first RB to be selected: Yahoo projects Arizona’s David Johnson, ESPN claims Minnesota mainstay Adrian Peterson, and schemes Los Angeles sophomore Todd Gurley; Pittsburgh RB Le’Veon Bell is also a legitimate option.

With the new wide receiver era beginning its reign, it seems like fantasy players will need to be picking within the top five if they want a shot at Atlanta’s Julio Jones. Second behind only Brown in fantasy points among WRs last year, Julio led the league in receiving yards (second all time in single season receiving yards), and was tied for the league lead in receptions (with Brown).

This upcoming season looks like it’ll be another fruitful one for the Alabama product. Top center Alex Mack has joined the Falcons to solidify the offensive line, and to give Matt Ryan more time to pick out his WRs within the pocket. And while weapons such as Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper have joined the fold, the uptick in single coverage and OC Kyle Shanahan’s desire to go for deeper passes should make up for Jones’ expected drop-off in receptions.

Next: Devonta Freeman: Fantasy first-rounder?

No longer is there shame in taking a wide receiver at the top of the first round in a fantasy football draft. If you’re fortunate enough to take a Julio Jones at around the fifth overall pick of your draft, then feel free to pull the trigger.