2011 NFL Draft Grades: Round 1 Analysis, Trading Up for Julio Jones Wrong Move?

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2011 NFL Draft Grades: Round 1 Analysis, Trading Up for Julio Jones Wrong Move?
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This morning I woke up to read that the Atlanta Falcons were strongly considering trading down in tonight's first round of the 2011 NFL Draft to take either A.J. Green or Julio Jones.

At first glance I was excited. Anytime you finish the season as the NFC's best team and end up with a top draft pick, things are seemingly going your way.

It was a fun idea to think the Falcons would trade down, and I welcomed it, but I didn't think it would actually happen.

I figured the Browns and Bengals (the two teams projected to take the top two receivers in most mock drafts) would be out of their mind to trade a pick with the Falcons.

When it actually happened, I jumped up from the slumped position in my chair and immediately mass texted all of my fellow Falcons-fan-friends to tell them.

"We're about to take Julio Jones!"

Everyone turned out to be just as ecstatic as me. Julio Jones. What a steal!

However, ESPN's Chris Berman quickly reported on the situation, saying that the Falcons were a hair away from getting A.J. Green via trade with Cincinnati, but it fell through last second.

From there, I went back into my deep thought processes, and as the night rolled on I began to doubt Thomas Dimitroff's decision more and more.

I never thought I would find a day where it would be in my right mind to doubt anything Thomas Dimitroff has done with personnel, especially after the great success he has had putting together this team in Atlanta.

But, tonight was that time.

As I sit here and write this, I see Da'Quan Bowers—arguably the best pure pass rusher in the NFL Draft—still sitting, undrafted. Many other highly regarded defensive prospects are still waiting to be plucked as well.

After thinking real hard about it, did Atlanta come anywhere near making the right decision?

Heading into the draft, I figured Atlanta needed to bulk up the offensive and defensive lines with youth, maybe target a high caliber tight end, look around for a safety that could maybe compete with Thomas DeCoud, and look for a cornerback who could compete for a nickel position (or, possibly, even a starting position over Brent Grimes—as much as I love Grimes).

Jimmy Smith, Da'Quan Bowers, Justin Houston (as a rush end), and Kyle Rudolph all came to mind. Never once did I ever think about taking a top tier receiver, which is obvious considering Green and Jones were expected to be long gone before the Falcons' original 27th overall pick.

But, if Atlanta was going to test the waters with an offensive player in the first round, especially for a skill position, the main criteria they needed to focus on was explosiveness.

That's what Atlanta has lacked on the offensive side of the ball. Matt Ryan has an above average arm, but he's no Aaron Rodgers. Michael Turner is a darn good running back, but he's never a realistic threat to bust open defenses with his feet.

Tony Gonzalez is a Hall of Famer, but he's not going to stretch a defense that much. And, the Falcons already have a Pro Bowl receiver in Roddy White.

Was taking a top receiver in this year's draft really that smart?

Unless Jones is going to bring serious explosiveness to this team, it might not have been. He's physical, fast, and has an NFL ready physique, but I'm not positive if Jones was the right pick.

It was like the Falcons really wanted A.J. Green, but when they could not get him they immediately went for the next best thing without thinking.

It's kind of like when you go to the store, and they are out of that video game you want, so by impulse you purchase the next nice looking game on the shelf.

Turns out, two days later, that game stinks, and you are out around 60 bucks (or in the Falcons' case, a bunch of future draft picks).

A.J. Green looks like one of the best receiving prospects to ever enter the draft. Jones just looks like that big, physical receiver you get every other year.

Remember when we drafted Michael Jenkins? He was a top pick for the Falcons, at 6'5", 200 pounds, from Ohio State, and he's never blossomed into a super star.

He's had problems with injuries and drops, but when healthy he's been a very formidable receiver. 

Well, Julio Jones has had problems with injuries and drops. Is it possible he's going to be more of a Jenkins, than a White, or Green?

When you have a Pro Bowl tight end, and a Pro Bowl receiver, the receptions aren't going to exponentially increase across the board to make everyone happy.

That third receiver in the mix—either Jones, or Jenkins—isn't going to be a Pro Bowler; They especially aren't going to be a Pro Bowler in the Falcons already run based offensive scheme.

This pick could boil down to be a big mistake because Jones will still be the afterthought behind White and Gonzalez. What Atlanta needs is a receiver on the other side of the field who can get 50-70 catches per year.

Do they get that with Julio Jones? Absolutely. But, they have that with Michael Jenkins.

If anything, I would have liked the Falcons to sit around for a later receiving prospect. I really liked how Greg Little looked as a Falcons pick in a later round. Little has proven to be very explosive, and would be a more logical pick for the receiver position because the Falcons would obviously have made a premier pick on defense at an earlier round.

But, to throw a bunch of future draft picks on the table to not get A.J. Green, and rather take a guy who's going to only be as productive as the offense will let him, doesn't really seem like the right move.

Am I still excited to have Julio Jones?

Yeah. It's a fun thought. Fans are going to love him. But, the Falcons later draft picks better really mold well in the fall, or Thomas Dimitroff might be sitting in his office hitting himself in the head.

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