I’d say it was wise to wait several years to deliver a definitive take on the Julio Jones trade, because it’s easy to overreact one way or the other in the early years following a blockbuster. You can still make the case that the Falcons would’ve gotten here without Julio, but considering #11 is arguably the best receiver in the NFL and Atlanta’s in the Super Bowl this year, it’s not a case I’d make strongly.
The Browns squandered their draft haul, and not one player drafted with the picks they got from the Julio swap is still with the team. Since being drafted, Julio has put up insane numbers, with 497 receptions, 7,610 yards, and 40 touchdowns. Against the Packers, Julio was arguably the most dominant player on the field, putting up 180 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches, and he’ll be relied upon to light up the Patriots secondary just two days after his 28th birthday. There’s a non-zero chance that he’ll go down as one of the best five or ten receivers in NFL history, and while the Falcons had to give up a ton of picks to get it done, he’s paid that investment back in spades.
Why bring this up now? Because as recounted in the book The War Room by Michael Holley, before Thomas Dimitroff pulled the trigger on the trade, he consulted two men he trusted. Scott Pioli told him to go for it, while legendary Patriots head coach Bill Belichick urged him not to.
#SB51 subplot: Dimitroff opened 2 Super Bowl windows by forsaking Belichick's advice, pulling the trigger on 2011 Julio Jones blockbuster pic.twitter.com/76X8DSacGz— Chris Wesseling (@ChrisWesseling) January 25, 2017
Belichick is legitimately one of the greatest coaches and evaluators of talent of all-time, so we’re only going to be able to have so much fun with this one. It’s still striking that Belichick thought Jon Baldwin, who had 44 receptions for 607 yards and two touchdowns in three seasons and is now out of the league, was as good as Julio, who only was not the consensus top receiver in the draft because the also great A.J. Green was in it. It might explain why nearly all of New England’s best receivers during the Patriots’ long run of success have been acquired from someplace other than the draft.
While Belichick may not have endorsed the trade, he’ll have a chance to try to back up his assessment by stopping Julio Jones cold in the Super Bowl. Good luck, buddy.