The Atlanta Falcons have not lacked playmakers at wide receiver during Matt Ryan's run at quarterback, and he should have at least two excellent weapons to throw to once again this fall.
Pro Football Focus recently created an algorithm to project which NFL wide receivers are the best bets to top 1,000 yards in 2020, and both Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley were among the 23 players they believe will do so. PFF created this algorithm for fantasy football purposes, but that doesn't lessen the possible real-life implications of the projections.
At the very top of their list is Jones, who has not finished outside of the top three in receiving yards since 2013, when he missed most of the season due to an injury. PFF projects Jones to lead all NFL receivers with 1,628 yards, which would be 234 yards more than he had in 2019.
"The efficiency metric of yards per route run may as well be named after Julio — he has led all WRs in that category in five of the last seven years and never ranked outside the top five," PFF's Jarad Evans writes. "Jones and [Michael] Thomas were the only players to have more than 40 catches of at least 15 yards last season. Book it."
While Jones's dominance against NFL defenses is practically old hat at this point, there's another receiver on Atlanta's roster who secondaries need to keep a close eye on. Perhaps no Falcons player has garnered as much hype this offseason as Ridley, who enters his third season and has had plenty of success thus far in his career.
Ridley caught 63 passes for 866 yards and seven touchdowns in 2019, but he was on pace to top 1,000 yards before an abdominal injury forced him to miss the final three games of the season. If healthy, Ridley is more than capable of becoming a 1,000-yard receiver in his own right; that's exactly what PFF expects for him in 2020, projecting him to gain 1,066 yards this season.
"One of the fantasy community's favorite breakout candidates, Ridley is primed to reach 1,000 yards for the first time in his career," Evans writes. "Atlanta's passing offense is going to run through its two outside WRs in Jones and Ridley — Matt Ryan has a league-high 537 pass attempts to outside WRs since 2018, 72 more than anyone else. Still, the possibility of Julio hogging too many targets is a potential roadblock to Ridley reaching 1,000 yards."
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the Falcons' explosive receivers isn't Ryan, but newly acquired running back Todd Gurley. For the first time in his career, Gurley isn't the true focal point of his offense. However, Gurley is still more than capable of surpassing 1,000 yards, himself, and defenses will truly have to pick their poison when playing Atlanta.