I just about swerved my car into the left lane on I-85 in South Fulton when I heard on AM680 the Fan that the Falcons had indeed done the unthinkable, moving up to the 6th pick in a gargantuan trade with Cleveland to land a marquee player. My jaw dropped when Roger Goodell called out Julio Jones' name.
My commute was only a third over at that point. I had two more counties and about thirty minutes to think this thing through, and even more time to think it through as my wife soaked up more documentaries on William and Kate.
Earlier in the day, when the buzz of a trade up for a WR was circulating my twitter timeline, I was with Dave and calling this gossip "SMOKESCREEN" left and right. I swore up and down that the Falcons knew we needed help in the pass rush. I was dead wrong.
Now, I know a lot of you are familiar with Julio being SEC fans, or at least college football fans. Me? Born and raised a diehard University of Alabama fan. As such, I have three years worth of experience watching Julio, from his breakout year in 08 to this past season. In many respects, he didn't quite live up to the hype placed upon his shoulders when he became a Crimson Tider (we have high expectations, dontcha know) but he was one of the best receivers Tuscaloosa has seen in a long while.
Put simply, Julio is a multi-tool. I'll get into that in a minute. Just know that he brings more to the table than just height and speed. Some say he's not worth what we paid for him. That can turn out to be true with any draft pick that high in the first, and Thomas Dimitroff has likely made what is the first of many, many draft gambles. That's a good sign though. If our GM is that confident in our current roster, regardless of the meltdown in the playoffs, we should feel the same confidence.
Back to "multi-tool." Consider Jones the "swiss army knife" of marquee receivers in this year's draft class. While AJ Green has golden hands and breakaway speed, Jones has much more. What exactly does he have? Well, let's get to that bullet-list.
- Excellent blocker: This, at least in my addled brain, is what sold Dimitroff on Jones. This is what also makes Julio a perfect fit for Falcons football. We're a run first team and with such a talented blocking receiver on the field, Turner and Snelling could have a field day on whichever side Jones is lined up on. Keep in mind that Jones is one of the men that helped Mark Ingram (who, ironically, is now a Saint) bulldoze his way to the Heisman trophy in '09. Jones even gives his body up on screen passes! Watch this clip, where, on a simple bubble screen to Mark Ingram, Julio Jones delivers a block that springs Ingram for a VERY long TD.
- Deep threat: Julio proved in the '09 game against Arkansas that he could easily catch the long ball. His height helps, but watch this clip. Watch how he keeps track of the ball and, despite it being underthrown, manages to snag it off-speed, backpedals and then shakes off a defender to score the touchdown.
- Breakaway Speed: You need to only watch this clip. One juke and a cloud of dust.
- Height, hands, and reach: Again, the clip says it all.
- Physical, tough: Jones has been known to give piggy back rides to entire classes of school children. Watch 2/3rds of the LSU Tigers' defense try to tackle him.
- Height: Yes, I know I've already harped on that once, but watch this. Jump, extend, reach, grab, long pass play. This was common for Julio in the very tough SEC. Imagine him doing it over Saints defenders and try to keep the drool from puddling in your lap.
- Lots of heart: There's no clip to show for this one and it's really more an intangible than anything else, but Julio is a hard worker. He plays with a determination and fire that allows him to give 110% on every down he plays. The middle of the Championship '09 season was likely his best stretch of games and he played these games with an injured wrist. That'd slow down most wide receivers, but it didn't seem to effect Julio. But because he gives his all and sells his body on every down...
- Injuries occur: While he's never really missed much gametime with an injury (he chooses to play through them), he will likely not be able to get away with that as much on the professional level. In college he played with injuries to his wrist, ankles, back, shoulders, etc. I doubt, with as much as the Falcons are going to have to invest in him as the 6th overall pick, that the trainers in Flowery Branch are going to allow Jones to be as nonchalant when he's banged up. Still, that's not the biggest issue he has.
- Gets lost in double coverage: Julio's main problem is that, when bracketed, you hear nary a peep from him. That's one of the main reasons he wasn't as effective this past season. After a couple of years carving his own way through SEC defenses, coordinators learned to just double (and at times, triple) cover him and he'd stay quiet. Though he has excellent height and reach, he does not fare well with bodies hanging around/on him pre-catch. At the NFL level, he'll experience that form of bracketing and increased disguising of coverage and as a result, he'll likely have to learn to catch better in traffic quickly if the Falcons expect him to take a starting role by September. I'm sure Terry Robiskie and Roddy will help him get up to speed but this con could come into play if he's successful early in his career.