Julio Jones, WR, Alabama Crimson Tide
40-Time: (NFL Scouting Combine Time Feb. 23 - Mar. 1 to be added)
Julio Jones has been compared to a lot of big name receivers in his brief career. Basically, you can insert any fast, physical receiver's name into the blank, when drawing a comparison to the junior playmaker.
Jones has a rare combination of size, speed, awareness, and flexibility. You have typical receivers that excel in one of these categories, but it's few and far between that you find a receiver that possesses all of these attributes, especially at such a young age.
On any given play, these features to his game make him a home run threat whether it's a quick slant, a screen, or a double move that gets him behind the defense. He has the awareness to always know where he's at on the field and especially in the end zone and around the boundaries. His size and knack for using his hands to catch the ball make it almost impossible for shorter corners to defend.
After the catch is made, he has the speed and flexibility to make defenders miss in the open field and then use his track speed to go the distance. If all else fails, Jones will use his stiff arm to bully would-be tacklers. He lives for contact and has no problem throwing off defenders.
I've never seen so many highlights from one player in which a pile of seven to eight defenders attempt to tackle him at the same time; it's comical. Don't forget that this is SEC defenses that he's treating like this. If defenses go high on Julio, they'll suffer a severe stiff arm, followed by a great face down view of the turf...alone!
With all of the tools that Jones possesses, he should never be taken out of a game, especially a big game with a lot at stake. Several times throughout his career he had less than stellar performances. Even when you take into account the SEC defenses and Alabama's strong running game, I still always expect a top tier receiver to get his touches.
When Jones is wide open, it's due to a breakdown in coverage for the most part. He doesn't get a lot of separation on his basic route tree passes. He runs full speed after catching the ball or on straight go routes. Julio has to learn to hit max speed on every route, including coming out of his breaks crisp.
If Jones continues to run different paces, based on the route, then he'll never be able to get the timing down with his next quarterback.
Julio was the number one receiver on a national championship team. That was also a team that went undefeated through the SEC. Julio has big game experience and has played against some NFL caliber defensive backs his whole career including, Joe Haden, Eric Berry, Patrick Peterson, Aaron Williams, etc.
Jones was named the 2006-07 Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year for the State of Alabama in high school. Like some of the other top caliber receivers in this draft, it translates on the field.
One of the most underestimated tidbits on Julio is the fact that he helps out in the community with several different causes. He's a real high character player and to some teams that still factors into the drafting process.
Potential NFL Team, Round
If AJ Green is already off of the board by the 3rd pick, a case can be made for the Cincinnati Bengals to take Julio Jones at the 4th pick. Whether Carson Palmer is back or not, franchises need to have that go-to #1 receiver, and if AJ Green is cut in the mold of Calvin Johnson, then Julio is cut in the mold of Andre Johnson. Both are worthy of top 5 picks.
However, I think the best fit and value for Jones is at the 14th pick to the St. Louis Rams. He would be an instant starter and success as Sam Bradford's go-to receiver in Josh McDaniels' new offense.
Other teams in between the 4th and 14th pick that are likely to go with Jones are the Cleveland Browns at 6 and the Washington Redskins at 10. Cleveland needs to get its young quarterback a playmaker that can bail him out when they go to the air. The Redskins need a quarterback, but the better value could be getting their future quarterback his right hand man.
Jayson Braddock appears on Sports Radio 790 AM in Houston, TX, every Thursday morning at 11:19 am CST as the football insider on the Dylan Gwinn show. He's a graduate of the Sports Management World Wide Football GM & Scouting Course and has been mentored by former NFL player / executive John Wooten and Sporting News.com NFL Draft Expert Russ Lande. His work is mostly appreciated by die-hard fans interested in every little detail about their team and not just watered down mainstream talk. - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports7910.com. You may email Jayson directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ JaysonBraddock
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