Atlanta Falcons: 30 greatest players in franchise history

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
30 of 30
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

WR. (2011-present). Julio Jones. 1. player. 44.

  • 5x Pro Bowl (2012, 2014-17)
  • 2x First-Team All-Pro (2015-16)
  • 1x Second-Team All-Pro (2017)
  • 2015 NFL receptions leader (136)
  • 2015 NFL receiving yards leader (1,877)
  • 585 receptions for 9,084 yards and 43 touchdowns to date

While wide receiver Julio Jones is only seven seasons into his Falcons career, one could argue that he is already the greatest player in Atlanta franchise history. He has both the individual accolades and the league-wide reputation as one of the best receivers in the game today.

It turns out that 2011 trade with the Cleveland Browns was 100 percent worth it for Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff. Otherwise, Jones’ transcendent talent as a receiver never makes it to Flowery Branch. Atlanta earmarked Jones as the weapon the Falcons needed to get over the top after an embarrassing playoff loss at home to the Green Bay Packers. The thought was to make Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White the best receiving corps in football.

Jones was used primarily as a vertical threat during his first season in the league. Even as largely a gadget player as a rookie, Jones nearly went over 1,000 receiving yards. His breakout season came as a sophomore in 2012, as Jones went over 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in a season, setting a career-high with 10 touchdowns in the process.

While Atlanta would make it to the NFC Championship in 2012, Jones suffered a major setback in 2013 when he broke his foot and missed 11 games. Even then, he still had 580 receiving yards in just five games played that year. Unbelievable.

After said foot injury, Jones has been one of the three best receivers in football since 2013. He is not only a perennial Pro Bowler, but a perennial All-Pro. His campaign was historic as he led the league in receptions and receiving yards. The guy was within 100 yards of setting the all-time single-season record set by Calvin Johnson with the 2012 Detroit Lions.

In 2016, Jones had a 300-yard receiving game against the division rival Carolina Panthers in Week 4. Atlanta won the NFC for the first time since 1998 that season. Jones’ catch against the New England Patriots nearly sealed the deal in Super Bowl LI. Though in a losing effort, it is the signature play of his seven-year NFL career so far.

Next: Atlanta Falcons: All-time team

Jones may be in a contract dispute with the Falcons brass. However, there is no reason to believe that he will spend his NFL career in anything but a Falcons uniform. Eventually, he will surpass White as the greatest statistical receiver in Falcons history. Though first ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receivers are rare, Jones has been that good in his first seven years in the league. While not as vocal as Deion Sanders, Jones’ game speaks every bit as loudly as Prime’s did in his hall of fame career.