The news that Julio Jones is signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should have immediately intrigued fantasy football managers. The longtime Atlanta Falcons WR was released by the Tennessee Titans and had remained a free agent during the offseason. However, his arrival in Tampa Bay means that Jones could yet provide fantasy value in 2022. Let’s examine whether Jones is a player you should consider drafting this season, and the impact his signing has on the fantasy value of Russell Gage.
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Can fantasy managers trust Julio Jones in 2022?
Fantasy managers have been bitten twice in two years by Jones. In 2020, he played just nine games and had 51 receptions for 771 yards with three touchdowns. He finished the 2020 season as the WR53. Then, in 2021, he managed 10 games but could only pull in 31 receptions for 434 yards and a single touchdown. That left him as the WR93 for fantasy.
All of that means Jones heads into 2022 with a lot of question marks. Can he stay healthy long enough to have significant fantasy value? Or, at the very least, can he have fantasy value that we can predict? Those answers are uncertain right now, as we do not even know if Jones can get to the season healthy. If Jones is on the field, his talent is worth a gamble, but it will be hard to trust him for a prolonged period of time.
The Buccaneers have a lot of WR talent at their disposal
The other concern regarding Jones’ fantasy value is the shape of the Buccaneers’ depth chart at the position. Just 24 hours ago, it looked like the depth chart was thin at the top, with Mike Evans and Russell Gage expected to be the clear top two for Week 1.
However, two bits of news within the space of 15 minutes changed everything. The Jones signing immediately muddies the water in terms of where he sits relative to Gage. Meanwhile, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Chris Godwin will not open training camp on the physically unable to perform list. Therefore, there is every chance Godwin could be active for Week 1.
This means that right now, Jones could be anywhere from the WR2 through to the WR4 on the Buccaneers’ depth chart. On pure talent, you would expect him to start on the outside opposite Evans, with Godwin in the slot. However, Gage is the younger, healthier option, so he could beat out Jones.
Additionally, if the Buccaneers do take Jones into the season, they could keep him on a tight snap count. That would potentially see him rotating snaps or drives with Gage, destroying both their fantasy values. We will have to see where Jones’ ADP settles after this news, but the talent is worth the investment unless it ends up in single-digit rounds. The key takeaway for fantasy managers right now is that this news probably hurts the value of Gage as a fantasy asset more than it provides value in the shape of Jones.