Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is objectively one of the best players in the NFL today. Many pundits, including former pro Nate Burleson, consider him a top five player at his position. His numbers — which have broken numerous franchise marks — are nothing short of phenomenal. And, despite several injuries, it's become clear that Thomas Dimitroff was right to trade up for the Alabama star in 2011.
All this raises a thought-provoking question: Is Jones the most dangerous offensive playmaker in Atlanta's division?
ESPN.com's NFC South writers discussed this topic on Monday and brought up some interesting points. Two of the three scribes interviewed — Pat Yasinskas (Tampa Bay) and Mike Triplett (New Orleans) — gave Jones the nod; David Newton (Carolina) was the lone dissenter.
Newton did concede Jones is the most dangerous receiver in the NFC South, but went with Carolina's starting QB.
"(W)hen you consider the most dangerous overall, I'm going with a player who touches the ball on every offensive snap. I'm picking Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, because he can defeat you with his arm and legs," said Newton. "He can change what opposing defenses do because of his versatility. Jones isn't consistently dangerous when it's third-and-1 or fourth-and-1. Newton is, almost to the point of being automatic."
While he makes a couple strong arguments, I have to agree with Yasinskas and Triplett. Netwon may be more impactful than Jones because of his role, but on any given snap, I don't believe there's anyone in the division more dangerous than Atlanta's top WR.
"Jones isn't just the most dangerous playmaker in the NFC South. He's the division's best player," said Yaskinskas. "The Falcons struggled in many areas last season, but Jones still thrived. One statistic in particular jumps out at me: Jones had 76 catches that went for first downs. Only Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown (85) had more.
"That shows Jones makes things happen when he makes a catch. Jones is putting up big numbers despite drawing a lot of attention from defenses."
Things could change, of course. Although Newton isn't one of the league's best quarterbacks right now, he certainly has the potential to join that group down the road. If he does — and subsequently earns the monster contract he just signed — we could revisit this topic and dig a little deeper. But, for now, my money's on Jones.