Julio lands in Nashville, Ridley and Pitts to the moon!

On Sunday the Titans and Falcons finally agreed to a deal that will send perennial Pro Bowl receiver and future Hall of Farmer Julio Jones to Nashville in exchange for a 2022 2nd round pick and 2023 4th round pick. In the deal the Titans also receive a 2023 6th round pick and are responsible for Jones’ entire contract, which runs through the 2024 season. 

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This trade was done because the Falcons are in the equivalent of cap hell and Julio wanted out. The Titans pounce on the opportunity to create a dynamic 1-2 receiver punch with A.J. Brown, albeit at a significant cost. 

We know the Titans got better and the Falcons got worse. But the real question here is how does this trade affect fantasy football?

For the Falcons….

Matt Ryan QB15 -> QB16

Mike Davis RB14 -> RB12

Calvin Ridley W11 -> WR9

Russell Gage WR82 -> WR39

Kyle Pitts TE6 -> TE5

Matt Ryan drops just a hair without having the ability to throw to Julio, but given the Falcons defensive issues and the fact that they still have some great weapons I doubt Ryan regresses too much.

Meanwhile, the other playmakers for the Falcons could benefit in a big way from not having Julio on the team. The biggest “winner” with this trade might be Russell Gage, who was highly ranked by PFF last season and will have a lot more targets thrown his way in 2021.

Mike Davis should now see some more action as a pass catcher. If he stays healthy he could be in for a big year. He hasn’t had to shoulder a load like this in his career, so its worth monitoring and may not be someone you want to go all in on. But he’s probably going to be an elite RB2. 

Now we get to the juicy pairing of Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts. Ridley was already going to see upwards of 150 targets if he plays all 17 games in 2021. Without Julio, those targets are likely to increase. My projections have Ridley at WR9 and I think thats the absolute floor for him if he’s healthy. He is very clearly a WR1 on any fantasy roster.

Meanwhile, Kyle Pitts is the ultimate unicorn and is now positioned to have the most productive rookie season by a tight end in NFL history. That is not hyperbole. Given his draft capital, elite tools and available targets it would not be shocking to see Pitts finish as a top 5 TE in fantasy in 2021. You could make a reasonable case that he could be TE2 or TE3 by the end of the season. 

For the Titans….

Ryan Tannehill QB17 -> QB11

Derrick Henry RB2 -> RB3

A.J. Brown WR3 -> WR8

Julio Jones WR21 -> WR15

Josh Reynolds WR64 -> WR93

Anthony Firkser TE18 -> TE24

One of the biggest winners of the Julio trade has to be Ryan Tannehill. The former Dolphins QB has been excellent for the Titans, but this offseason the team hadn’t done much to help his cause. Tennessee lost Corey Davis to the Jets and Jonnu Smith to the Patriots. That left only A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry as the only reliable and proven options on the Titans offense.

Well, now they have one of the best receivers of all time who, when healthy, is still a top 10 receiver in the league. Plus, they take some pressure off of Brown and Henry. This should be good for everyone, but most of all Tannehill. He’s going to sling it more than he has in years past, which should make him a viable low end QB1. 

Henry’s fantasy stock takes a bit of a hit due to the trade. With Jones in the fold, the Titans are going to throw the ball a bit more than in years past and Henry figures to get a few less targets out of the backfield. Again, this is probably very good for his per play production, but it does lessen his volume a bit. 

Brown also sees his stock take a hit, but that’s because before the Julio deal he was projected for 160+ targets. Now he’s more in the 130-145 range. He is still very clearly a WR1. He could still be a top 5 fantasy receiver this year. But he’s not going to get the same amount of targets as a Davante Adams or Stefon Diggs. 

Josh Reynolds, who was a potential sleeper at one point, now sees his fantasy ranking fall off a cliff. Yes, he’s still going to start and has experience playing as a third wheel in Los Angeles. He could still be a nice late round add. But don’t bank on anything special from him.

Firkser was another sleeper candidate who is probably no more than a TE2 at this point on any roster. His volume is now gone and given to Julio.

Lastly, let’s get to Julio. He’s now squarely in the mid WR2 category with some serious upside. However, you always have to take into consideration his health. If he plays more than 14 games he’s likely to be a fringe WR1. If he plays less, then mid to late WR2 is probably fair. On a per game basis he’s likely going to produce like a low end WR1. You should be trying to get Julio on your rosters, especially if he’s a 3rd or 4th round pick. This is a very good deal and landing spot for his fantasy value in 2021.