Entering the 2011 Draft, there was a broad consensus that A.J. Green would be a more valuable NFL receiver than Julio Jones. Nearly every pundit, columnist, and talking-head rated Mr. Green higher (including Mel Kiper’s giant talking-head). The Bengals organization certainly did, and the actions of the Falcons suggested that they did as well. As a UGA graduate, I was also pining for A.J. to become a Falcon. I was pretty disappointed on draft day. I had seen A.J. make so many spectacular plays. As for Julio, his broken-footed forty time impressed me, but I was disappointed that the Falcons traded so many picks for another unproven receiver who was “prone to drops”.
Today, I am very thankful that A.J. outperformed Julio at the college level. If he hadn’t, the Falcons would have never been blessed with the opportunity to draft Julio. I say this because Julio’s rookie year was much more impressive than A.J.’s, revealing a superior upside. The two receivers’ 2011 stats have been compared to death, with most concluding that their rookie years were a wash statistically. However, most of the media has refused to even entertain the idea that Julio could be as good as A.J., or better. It is as if they haven’t seen Julio’s 2011 highlights. When they try to explain why they still favor A.J., they merely offer excuses or simply state that A.J. is better because he is better (that is not a typo). When the best arguments put forth are excuses (like A.J. didn’t have a great team around him), this is not a sign of a strong position, and is perhaps a signal that A.J. did not quite live up to expectations. Other arguments I have heard in support of the “A.J. is better than Julio” theory are pathetic. I’m sorry I don’t recall the sources of these comments, but I remember one pundit claiming that A.J. is superior because he is “the better receiver”, and another guy citing the undisputed fact that A.J. is a “baller”. In contrast to these network commentators who are ignorant of what we have brewing here in Atlanta, I have changed my draft day opinion to conclude that Julio is the better player and has the greatest NFL potential. I submit to you the video evidence.
This video highlights the major distinction between Julio and A.J.: Whereas A.J. tries to dance his way into the end zone like a gazelle (A.J.’s nickname), Julio runs like his life depends upon getting the ball into the end zone, like a drug-fueled fugitive on “Cops” running for his freedom, like a “bat out of hell” (this should be Julio’s nickname).
The video shows that Julio’s approach and/or abilities are more suited to the NFL than A.J.’s. When A.J tries a dance move or two to reach the end zone as he did at UGA, the time he wastes allows about half of the opposing speedy NFL defense to surround him. All but one of A.J.’s touchdown catches were made in the end zone. Julio, on the other hand, demonstrated that he can turn any catch into a touchdown if he is not tackled IMMEDIATELY. If you are a defender standing between Julio and the goal line on any given play, you are statistically much less likely to tackle him than you are to watch him run by you or through you. This is so valuable in the NFL where offenses only convert about fifty percent of red zone possessions into touchdowns. Furthermore, Julio’s unstoppable nature humiliates opposing defenses, as he appears to be a man among boys in the secondary. Perhaps I am viewing him through homer “beer goggles”, but I have not seen such potent power and speed dominance in any sport over the last two or three decades, with the exception of LeBron James.
The final comparison that the video illustrates is the differences between the ways the two receivers celebrate. While A.J.’s celebrations are not elaborate or offensive, they are very typical for an NFL receiver because he does his celebrating alone, attracting attention to himself. Julio, on the other hand, only celebrates with his teammates. This quality, along with the fact that he runs near top speed and never looks over his shoulder all the way into the end zone, shows me that we drafted the receiver most likely to win a championship. He will never distract a team a la T.O. or Randy Moss. Quite the contrary, he will improve the focus of the entire team.
I’d like to conclude by going off on a tangent and specifically discussing the gazelle vs. the bat out of hell. When I compared Julio to a bat, I wanted to make sure that a bat was faster than a gazelle. I found that both can travel at about 40 mph in a straight path, but that bats can break 80 mph in a dive. This was very satisfying not only because I would like to see the “bat out of hell” nickname stick for Julio, but also because the 70 mph Cheetah is often cited as the fastest land mammal, as well as the fastest mammal period. Now we know that the bat is the fastest mammal. So, I next had to find if any other living thing was faster than the fastest mammal. It turns out that several birds are faster, and that the fastest is the falcon!!! Watch a falcon demonstrate an ability to “stoop” (dive) at a record 242 mph here.
I have always loved the Falcons, but also thought that a medium sized bird of prey was kind of a lame mascot among a league of Bears, Giants, Vikings, Broncos, Raiders, or even Eagles. Now knowing that a falcon can dive at over 240 mph, and then pull up just before it hits the ground to overcome over 25 g-forces, I am just a little bit prouder to be a Falcons fan.