As you rigorously prepare and research leading up to each fantasy football season, sometimes it’s fun to take a step back and look towards the future of the NFL. This feature is going to do just that, and while its focus won’t be fantasy related, maybe it sparks some thoughts for those of you pondering a keeper league strategy or something of that nature. The idea is simple: rank the top trade assets in the NFL (only including players at the skill positions on offense: QB/WR/RB/TE). Again, this has nothing to do with fantasy trades, this is in terms of how valuable these players are to their actual teams in the longterm. Yes, this means names like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will be left off since it’s my list. I’m sure there will be plenty of debate, as everyone’s picks are likely different. So sit back, and enjoy the ride!


No. 4: Julio Jones — WR, Atlanta Falcons

It’s only been two games, but Julio Jones is making it as obvious as he can that he’s the best WR in the NFL.

Julio’s been lighting up our fantasy lineups (which we all love), but when it comes to real football, the Falcons aren’t even sniffing their 2-0 record without Jones. Atlanta hosted the Eagles in a Week 1 shootout, and it was Julio who single handedly torched Philly’s defensive backs to the tune of nine catches, 141 yards and two touchdowns.

Week 2 against the Giants was more of the same, and you could even argue Jones had a better game aside from not getting into the end zone (and he essentially did — having a TD overturned leading to an easy one-yard score for his team). Jones racked up a career-high 13 catches for 135 yards, leading his team to victory with ridiculous plays like this one to keep the eventual game winning drive alive.

Jones simply makes plays that nobody else in the NFL can. That’s an example of Julio essentially winning a game on his own by being better than everyone else. As long as he’s healthy, that’s going to continue to happen all season.

If Julio were to go down — and with exposure to him in most of my season-long leagues and almost every cash/tournament DFS lineup I’ve made this season, I pray he doesn’t as much as anyone — Atlanta would become a well below average NFL team. Right now Jones has the NFC South leading Falcons on his back, keeping their playoff hopes alive.

The thing about Jones that makes him unlike almost any other player on this list is his potential for consistency. Although we haven’t seen it long-term yet, the way Julio is being used in the Falcons’ offense so far sure looks as if he’s one of the safest fantasy picks each week (regardless of matchup). In that sense, he’s become much like Antonio Brown as a staple in all cash league lineups.

As I continue to profess my love for Julio, no one has quite the appreciation for Jones that Matt Ryan does. Ryan can literally stare Jones down on every play since the defense already knows where the ball is going, yet still complete the pass (at an 84.6% completion rate so far this season).

All the signs are right in front of you in bright, flashing letters: Julio Jones is the most valuable receiver in the game today.

Find me on Twitter @julianedlow

See below for more features from “NFL Trade Assets.”

Honorable Mention: Jameis Winston/Amari Cooper

10. Cam Newton

9. Odell Beckham Jr.

8. Demaryius Thomas

7. Antonio Brown

6. Dez Bryant

5. Russell Wilson