Julio Jones freaked out Falcons fans by wiping his social media accounts — but does it tip the team’s draft plans?
When Julio Jones made the decision to delete his social media yesterday, it sent quite a few Falcons fans into panic mode. Despite the team’s best efforts to convince everyone it doesn’t have anything to do with his relationship with the organization, it seems Jones’ actions could have a significant impact on the Falcons’ draft strategy.
Team officials issued a statement in the aftermath of Jones’ social media moves claiming they were only designed to provide the prolific wide receiver a “fresh start.” That’s a lovely statement for damage control purposes, but it does ring a bit hollow.
Perhaps fans would feel differently about the statement’s validity if Jones’ salary wasn’t starting to lag behind the NFL’s other top wideouts. The former Alabama star still has three years left on the contract extension he signed back in August of 2015. Unfortunately, the average value of the deal puts him behind at least five other wide receivers in the league.
Earning less money than Sammy Watkins can’t sit well with Jones. He’s arguably the top wideout in the NFL. At the very least, he’s a crucial piece of the Atlanta offense. Without Jones on the field, Matt Ryan certainly looks like a more pedestrian quarterback.
Predictably, the Falcons don’t have internal options that could come anywhere near replacing Jones production if he chose to hold out. Mohamed Sanu and Justin Hardy are nice complimentary players, but neither is capable of serving as a team’s number one wide receiver.
That means the only realistic option the franchise could take to replace Jones would be to spend a high pick in the Draft on his replacement. Currently, the Falcons own the 26th pick in the first round. That’s probably too low to take the first or second wide receiver on the Falcons’ board. At that point, they’d likely be relegated to a lesser prospect like Calvin Ridley or Christian Kirk. Both are good long-term prospects, but neither could replace Jones’ production in the short-term.
If Jones is really unhappy in Atlanta, it’s going to prove to be a massive issue for the Falcons. Even if they shift their draft strategy to address the wide receiver position, they’re not going to find a player anywhere near his caliber. Atlanta fans better hope the team’s statements about him just looking for a fresh start are true. Otherwise, they’re going to have a massive hole in their offense next year.