NFL Draft 2011 Grades: What to Make of Julio Jones to Atlanta Falcons

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NFL Draft 2011 Grades: What to Make of Julio Jones to Atlanta Falcons
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The Atlanta Falcons made the biggest splash of the first round, trading five picks in order to select Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones.

The Falcons traded their first, second and fourth round picks this year and their first and fourth round picks in 2012 to the Cleveland Browns for the no. 6 overall pick.

The deal is great for the Browns.  It gives them some good picks to select quality players to help get that franchise going in the right direction.

But what about the Falcons?

Some analysts, like ESPN’s Tedy Bruschi, aren’t fans of Atlanta’s trade.  They argue that they gave up too much just for one player, or they say it puts undo pressure on Julio Jones to take the Falcons to the next level.

However, I disagree.

Though the Falcons lost some quality draft picks, they can address some of their needs via free agency.  Also, they still have their third round pick this year.  Look for the Falcons to select a defensive player or a tight end, possibly Arkansas’ D.J. Williams.

However, their biggest need is at wide receiver.  Roddy White is one of the best receivers in the league, but he needs another great wide receiver to line up opposite him.  Michael Jenkins has proven to be a bust, only catching 41 passes in 2010 while showing a lackluster effort on the practice field.  Harry Douglas is a decent wide out, but he is more of a slot receiver.

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Tight end Tony Gonzalez will be in the Hall of Fame one day, but he is getting up there in age.  In order for the Falcons offense, and more importantly quarterback Matt Ryan, to take the next step, they need another wide receiver.

Drafting Julio Jones takes the Falcons to that next level.  Though he’ll only be a rookie, he has great size and speed, running a 4.3 at the combine.  He’ll only be called on to catch about 70 passes in 2011, which is not too much to ask for from a rookie receiver.  Roddy White will again have over 100 receptions and Gonzalez will have another 70 catch season as well.

Having Jones’ downfield playmaking abilities will also help Matt Ryan greatly.  Ryan’s longest pass in 2010 was 46 yards.  With Julio Jones to throw to downfield, that will change in 2011.

Overall, the Julio Jones trade was a great move for the Falcons and especially Matt Ryan.  Peyton Manning had Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, and now we are seeing a similar situation unfold in Atlanta with Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones.

Grade: A-

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