Trades in the NFL used to be as unusual as seeing snow in Los Angeles. Now, general managers are wheeling and dealing like they’re playing fantasy football. Another major deal has gone down this week, as the Falcons traded superstar wide receiver Julio Jones and a sixth-round pick in the 2023 NFL draft to the Titans for a 2022 second-round selection and a 2023 fourth-round selection. The trade has major fantasy football implications across the board.
Let’s start in Tennessee, where the Titans lost a combined 216 targets when Corey Davis (92 targets) and Jonnu Smith (65 targets) left as free agents. Jones will absorb almost all of Davis’s targets and then some. If he can avoid injuries, he should produce high-end No. 2 fantasy wideout totals. Expect him to be a top-40 overall selection.
The move isn’t a death sentence for A.J. Brown, though it will drop him a few spots at wide receiver. Rather than having top-five fantasy potential because of the previously high number of open targets, Brown will be in the low-end No. 1 wideout conversation. Considering he had a WR12 finish in 2021, he doesn’t lose value from a season ago.
Ryan Tannehill, one of the more underrated quarterbacks in fantasy football, now has one heck of a duo at wide receiver and should be back in the top 10 at the position. I’ve moved him ahead of both Tom Brady and Jalen Hurts in my 2021 player rankings.
The news isn’t all good for the Titans though, as Josh Reynolds and Dez Fitzpatrick lose a lot of their luster and will now be late-round fliers or left unselected in redrafts.
In Atlanta, the moved means Calvin Ridley remains the top option in the passing game for Matt Ryan. He will retain his 2020 value (WR5), as his 143 targets from a year ago seem to be secure for 2021. The move also means the Kyle Pitts hype is going to reach even greater heights. The best tight end to come out of college in several decades, he should absorb a good portion of the 7.6 targets Jones averaged per game last season. While I still have my reservations due to the overall lack of success most rookie tight ends have in the stat sheets, Pitts is now going to be a top-five pick at the position.
Russell Gage, who moves into the starting lineup opposite Ridley, will also see a rise in value. He’ll be a late-round pick in most redrafts. Hayden Hurst could also see a slight increase in value, though the presence of Pitts limits him to the late rounds of drafts.
As for Ryan, he will lose some value without Jones in the passing game. It’s hard to make up for the rapport and statistical success this duo had during their time together in Atlanta, making Ryan a less attractive No. 2 fantasy quarterback in the later rounds.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for your late breaking fantasy news and the best analysis in the business.