Green Bay Packers Position Battles: Jordy Nelson vs. James Jones
(Above: Nelson has all the tools to be a stud in the West Coast offense.)
James Jones must have been beside himself last year when the Packers drafted Kansas State's Jordy Nelson in the second round.
We all knew Ted Thompson took leaps of faith and always goes for the "best available talent," but drafting a receiver when you already had three sold starters, well, that's just crazy.
After James Jones went down early last year with a knee injury, Nelson stepped in and performed admirably as a rookie.
But before we even get to what he did (or Jones, for that matter) last season, let's take a blind look at the two receivers.
Stands in at 6'1'' and 218 pounds, and had experience playing multiple positions on the field in high school, including quarterback in his senior year.
Had his best college season in his senior year, catching 70 catches for 893 yards and 10 scores, while also dropping in six catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns in the New Mexico Bowl.
Player A had a solid NFL combine, as he tied the record there for the bench press with 22 reps.
He also performed well in speed and quickness drills, but wasn't among the elite. Through other drills, it was obvious he had some of the better hands of his class.
Stands in at 6'3'' and 217 pounds. He owns his high school's state track record in class 3A 100m, despite being listed as having average speed.
He ran several times that ranged from 4.47-4.57 at the combine and college workouts, while displaying excellent hands and body control in other drills.
This player was a walk-on at his college, where he originally started his career as a safety.
Once his coach realized he belonged on offense, he hauled in 45 catches for eight touchdowns as a sophomore. After being on the preseason Fred Biletnikoff Award watch list, this player suffered injuries and finished the season with only 39 catches and one touchdown.
Upon returning to full health, he took his conference by storm, catching 122 passes for 1,606 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He also displayed his versatility and athleticism by throwing for two touchdowns, as well as returning two more.
Regardless of their college stats, it's arguable that Nelson is the better fit for both the slot, as well as to be the future replacement for Donald Driver at the two spot.
Nelson played against stronger competition in college, and even was a YouTube sensation for destroying top corner prospect Aqib Talib on a deep play last year.
James Jones has great quickness and burst, but lacks the speed that Nelson has, and is quite a bit shorter. His hands are also solid, but don't quite match up with how reliable Nelson's are.
In Jones' first season, he played well, but hit the rookie wall, and with his knee injury last year, was never able to get back to where he was in the first 10 games in 2007.
Nelson was only average in his first season, grabbing 33 catches for 366 yards and two touchdowns. But with Aaron Rodgers playing in his first season as a starter, Mike McCarthy didn't ask as much of him in the passing game as he did of Brett Favre the year before.
Green Bay used the tight end and third and fourth receivers a lot less, trying to rely on the running game to get the young quarterback through his first season unscathed.
However, the running game was horrid and unreliable to start the season, and Nelson came to the rescue as a consistent third down option, as well as a target in the red-zone that opened things up for Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.
Rodgers showed a lot of grit and poise throughout the season, and despite not being able to finish games early on, was one of Green Bay's strong points during the final five games of the season.
If Rodgers is able to continue his improvement and progress in defensive reads and looking downfield, both Nelson and Jones could easily play bigger roles in the offense this year.
James Jones will undoubtedly have a future in Green Bay, but with superior hands, athleticism, and size, Nelson should claim the slot for 2009, as well as look to secure the spot opposite of Greg Jennings for the long-term.
Then again, if the Packers don't sign Jennings to a long contract and they cut Driver within the next year or two, we could be looking at Green Bay's starting receivers for 2010, instead of a position battle.
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