There has been an undercurrent of interest amongst fans of the Houston Texans for a few months now to see the team select Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones in the upcoming 2011 NFL draft.
This desire has gathered almost a cult following, to the point that some fans will argue the merits of picking Jones over any other player that is realistically projected to be available at No. 11, including Robert Quinn, Prince Amukamara or J.J. Watt.
These three players would immediately help the beleaguered Texans defense, which was historically bad last year and was the main reason the team lost 10 games. That record led to the team hiring a new defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips.
Philips is in the process of switching the defense to a 3-4 scheme, something that will take completely different personnel than the Texans currently have on the roster.
So why is there such fervor to draft a player for the offense that finished third in the league when the defense needs such help? The reasoning is actually quite sound: If Jones is the best player available and he fills a position of need, which he does, then you take him despite any shortcomings that the defense may have.
To further expound on the theory, the offense performed well last year, but it could have been even more potent. All-Pro receiver Andre Johnson was always double-covered, but fellow wideouts Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones were unable to take advantage of the single coverage they often faced because of the attention on Johnson.
With another dominant receiver on the other side of Johnson, teams would be unable to use bracket coverage on both. While this doesn’t directly help the defense, it indirectly does because the offense would be able to give Phillips more cushion for his new defense to work with.
The crux of the argument is that Jones could seemingly be the best player available at the 11th pick. These fans believe that no matter which need is more pressing, Jones will simply give more impact to the Texans over his career than someone like Watt, Quinn or Amukamara. I would even agree that would be true, with the exception of Quinn, who I believe would be a steal outside of the top 10.
Despite the validity of the argument, I don’t think there’s any way Jones will be selected by the Texans, for a variety of reasons. In fact, if Julio Jones gets his name called at No. 11 in the draft, which is exactly a month from today, I’ll be shocked.
The first reason has nothing to do with the Texans: He very well may not be available at 11. Jones was already considered a desirable commodity, but after he blew up the scouting combine workout with 4.39 40-yard dash and 11’3” broad jump on what was discovered to be a broken foot, he has been projected to go in the top 10 by many analysts. Jones is even rumored to be above A.J. Green on some draft boards.
It is very possible that both Green and Jones could go in the top 10. Cincinnati, Cleveland and Washington are all logical landing spots for either wideout, so the Texans could have neither available at 11.
Even if Jones is available, though, I don’t see the Texans taking him. It is alleged that Gary Kubiak has final say on all draft selections, and from his comments to the media at the 2011 NFL owners meetings in New Orleans last week, it seems as if he is only considering a defensive player:
"You have no chance of being successful if you can only win one way. Look at Green Bay. They could beat you by scoring 30 or 35. But they can beat you 9-0. When you show up on game day, you don’t know if it’s going to be an offensive day, a defensive day or a special-teams day.
"But if you don’t have the ability to win in all three of those areas you’re not going to be very consistent. We can win a game 34-31, but we’ve got to get our team in position to win 10-7 if we have to. That’s got to be something in our players’ minds."
It is probably in Gary’s best interest to rule out an offensive player at No. 11, even if it may not be in the team’s best interest if Jones is in fact the best player available. Kubiak knows that this year he has to improve the defense and take the Texans to the playoffs, or he will likely lose his job.
Selecting a wide receiver who is the best player despite an atrocious defense is a move with the Texans’ long-term interests in mind, which is not currently Gary’s focus. Right now, he is likely concerned with this year, and if he gets to worry about further seasons, it will be a luxury. This could be considered a flaw inherent in having a coach with final say over personnel decisions, but such is the situation of the Texans.
Jones could likely still benefit the Texans though. Some teams still apparently believe in Bill Walsh’s draft philosophy that stated a team shouldn’t take a receiver until the rest of the team was set. Teams with very few holes on their roster may desire to move up and get Jones, especially before Minnesota and St. Louis have a chance to pick him up. One such team may be New England, which has two picks in the first three rounds.
The final reason that makes me think the Texans will look elsewhere besides Jones is public perception. While there certainly is a contingent of fans that favors Julio, as I mentioned before, there is an even larger group of fans that is on the brink of disinterest because of the woeful performance of the team last year, specifically the defense.
Taking a wide receiver in the first round would certainly anger these fans or, even worse in the Texans’ eyes, be the last straw that completely drives them away from supporting the team. While it is not smart to make football decisions based on popular opinion, the Texans have shown a willingness to please the masses in the past.
The draft is the only football-related news on the horizon in an offseason of labor uncertainty. For a team that is still charging for season tickets despite a lockout in order to pay for massive stadium debt, upsetting its supporters will not be on the agenda.
I know many want Julio Jones, and in some possible scenarios I even feel it makes sense. I just don’t think there’s any way it will happen. What’s your opinion though? Do you favor Jones, and if so, do you think it is possible he will be a Texan? Let your opinion be known in the comments below.
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