Sunday, February 27, 2011

It is time to discuss Wide Receivers


Most sources say the Rams will select a wide receiver in the 2011 Draft. Most say that receiver will be Julio Jones, junior from Alabama.

Devaney willing, this shall be the case. Quite frankly, I consider the case for a WR a no-brainer. Devaney just invested the whole franchise in his golden child, Sam Bradford. So far Bradford has validated this decision. Devaney must now make decisions that support and validate that critical choice. He’s locked in.

Green Interview

Furthermore, you have the fact that Sam is currently operating with (what most experts rate as) the worst receiver corp in the entire league. Some qualify that statement with the tag “due to injuries in 2010”. There is no need for that qualification. It is misleading. Sam has the worst receiver corp in the entire league, put a period on it. It isn’t just due to injury. Only Danny Amendola has proven himself a true asset. We’ve seen enough of Denario Alexander to be interested in bringing him back.

Every other WR on the roster better row for his life. Your professional careers are on the line.

As you know, I’ve been bitching about our receiver corp since before the 2010 draft. The top two reasons I believed we could not draft a QB in 2010 were:

  1. 1. Our offensive line
  2. 2. Our receiver corp

As it happened, our line was far better than I thought they would be. Not quite as good as I hoped, but far better than expected. If that sounds like a contradiction, just understand there is a wide gap between the best case and the worst case scenarios. The Ram OL was somewhere in-between, but leaning towards the happy side of the spectrum.

Unfortunately, our receivers were even worse than expected. It is astounding that Sam finished well as he did throwing to this crew. His good performance, in spite of the receiver corp, is probably the biggest single reason we all have confidence in him now. Just imagine what this kid will be like if we get him a deadly receiver. We all know and understand that our receiver corp is currently placing confining limits on Sam’s growth. This bottle-neck has to be broken if our team is to improve.

As I said, it’s a no-brainer.

Right now, we’re all on the same sheet of music, and feels pretty good. Last year, there was absolutely no consensus about what we aught to do with the top pick. There was a hell of a lot of bickering in that setting. I am glad we’re all together on this one.

The Situation

As you know, the Rams will be selecting #14 overall in the 2011 draft. This is not a bad position to begin our quest for a deadly receiver. Indeed, most sources say that Julio Jones will be there for us. Only one man is rated higher than Julio Jones, and that fellow is A.J. Green, one of the super-luminaries of this draft. Based on what we saw at the combine, the rankings may change.

If we get Julio Jones, we aught to be plenty happy. To some extend I am. However, it’s tough to get excited when you are drafting #14. A lot of things can happen in those first 13 picks. It is very difficult to guess what might be on the board when our actual number comes up. Nevertheless, we are all going to play the guessing game for the next 60 days, trying to get ready.

Thinking about the two candidates

I have had my eyes on Julio for some three years now. Understand that when I watch college football, I am doing so as a scout. I try to figure out who the prospects are, and who might make my team better. I have been wondering whether Julio might become a Ram, and possibly even the next great Ram receiver. Frankly, throughout his entire college career at Alabama, I was hopeful that we would draft Julio.

It’s a very funny thing… even as the fantasy seems set to become a reality, I am having some second thoughts. A.J. has definitely caught my eye. I am also concerned about who might have the best teamwork and chemistry with Sam. For some reason I can’t shake, I seem to think that fellow is A.J.

Perhaps we should begin with a serious comparison of these two young men.

Julio Jones

Let’s go in reverse order, and start with Julio Jones, the candidate most likely to be our pick in 2011. According to his Wikipedia page, Julio is a 2/3/1989 Aquarius, who just turned 22 years of age. He stands 6-4 and weighs in at 220 pounds. More accurate numbers may be released from the NFL combine soon.

He was an immediate and three-year starter and standout at Alabama. The Tide won a national championship during his watch. He decided to leave school a year early to enter this 2011 draft. Julio was one of the top performers at the combine, out-performing his draft-rival from Georgia, A.J. Green. Julio ran the 40 in 4.43 and 4.39 seconds. He nailed a 11'03" broad jump, and also posted a 38.5 inch vertical leap. In short, you see all the size, speed and vertical leaping ability you want in a receiver.

Alabama was a running team during Julio’s time in college. He did not see the football nearly as much as he would have at a place like Oklahoma or Florida. In my mind, he made the most out of his limited number of touches by physically dominating the corner opposite him. He is an extremely physical receiver who blasts through press coverage, shakes off and runs over defenders.

Physically he reminds me of two NFL receivers. His body type is very much like that of Terrell Owens. The way he runs after the catch is very much like Anquan Bolden. If you can imagine Terrell Owens running after the catch with an attitude like Anquan Bolden, you can visualize what Julio Jones looks like in action. Incidentally, Julio has not had any ‘personality’ incidents during this time at Alabama. He has shown no signs of being a WR-Diva.

The big knock on Julio is that he doesn’t use his hands to catch the ball as consistently as he should. They call him a body-catcher, and they blame this ‘bad-technique’ for a series of key drops he made as a junior. I have to say that I did not see those drops. I would like to have a look at that game film. Personally, I have always felt that the knock on body-catchers is over-rated. Lynn Swann never caught a pass with his hands in his entire life. Swann is an HOF guy. Issac Bruce, our all-time leading receiver, caught alternately with his hands or body, which ever seemed favorable in the situation.

Critics also say Julio is a build-up speed guy. What does that mean? Translation: he doesn’t have fantastic acceleration off the line. This critique may be debunked and inoperative after these combine results.

What do I think? I never saw a single down in Julio’s career where the corners didn’t try to jam the hell out of him on the line of scrimmage. They rode him like a bronco every step of the way through that initial 5 yards. Given this sort of relentless press coverage, I am not sure how you can judge a man’s snap acceleration correctly.

A.J. Green

According to his Wikipedia page, A.J. Green is a 7/31/1988 Leo who is also 22 years old, albeit 5 months older than Julio Jones. He stand 6-3 5/8th, just a hair shorter than Julio Jones. He weighs in at 211 pounds, 9 pounds lighter than Julio Jones. Once again, more accurate numbers may be released from the combine.

Like Julio, A.J. was an immediate and three year starter for the Georgia Bulldogs. He has a few less games under his belt due to a 4 game NCAA suspension in 2010. Why he suspended? He sold his 2009 Independence Bowl jersey to former UNC defensive back Chris Hawkins. The NCAA designated Hawkins as an agent, or someone who markets amateur athletes. Despite playing in fewer games, Green has much larger game numbers than Jones. This is primarily a function of the offense Georgia runs.

A.J. Green did not have a fantastic day at the combine. I am not sure you can describe it as ‘poor’ the way some sources have, but it was not what he wanted. Green ran the 40 in 4.48 and 4.51, considerably slower than Julio Jones. He posted a vertical leap of 34.5 inches, four inches less than Julio. Most surprisingly, Green posted a broad jump of 10 feet and 2 inches. This is 13 inches less than Julio Jones. According to the rumor, did out-bench Julio 18-17.

The speed result was particularly disappointing for A.J. Green. Prior to the combine, it was widely thought that Green had a sizable speed advantage over Julio Jones. Green’s 40 time just erased that advantage. The measurables say Jones is faster.

So riddle me this Batman: If A.J. is a little shorter, slower, lighter, less springy than Julio, why is he ranked higher? Because he can bench one more rep?

Nope, that’s not it at all. A.J.’s game film is what’s done it for him. The kid has a preposterous highlight reel. He’s made some insane catches. I’ve seen him make one-handers in the end-zone that dropped my jaw to the floor. He also uses his hands just about perfectly, which is something that the critics look for. He may be a tad smaller, less fast, and less springy, but he can flat-out play, and that’s enough.

My thoughts

If you wonder why I would have any second thoughts about Julio after seeing the combine results, I can summarize it all in just one word: Chemistry. I have very little doubt that Julio will be great receiver in the NFL. I just wonder what kind of chemistry he would have with Sam Bradford.

Sam is our guy. He’s been wearing the Ram uniform for a year now. We need to get the receiver who compliments him best. If we are going to spend a resource as precious as that 1st round choice, we better get the guy who compliments Sam best.

For some reason, I have a difficult time shaking the notion Sam might have better chemistry with A.J. than Julio. If this weren’t a fucking lock-out year, Devaney could arrange interviews with Julio and A.J. where Sam would throw to them. We could study how they perform together, and how they communicate. Regrettably, this is a fucking lock-out year, and Devaney can’t have any contact with Bradford once it’s on.

That officially sucks. Believe me, I’m pissed. The league is fucking around with one of the most important decisions the Rams will make in the next several years. We need to get this shit ironed-out fast so the draft can proceed naturally.


Many are saying the A.J. Green vs. Julio Jones just might be the most fascinating position battle in the 2011 draft. Before the combine, it seemed that Green had it salted away. After the combine, it’s game-on baby. These two are going to be jockeying for position all the way to the finish line. I am sure there will be plenty of controversy and debate over which of these two fine players is better.

With the 14th pick, we cannot dictate who we get. Indeed, if Julio rises on the board, and A.J. doesn’t drop much, we might not get either of them. This once again, this suggests to me that we need to be thinking about moving up the board in 2011, not moving down the board. We need to secure one of these two guys.

At this point in the game, I just trying to relax about the question. If we can get one of these two guys, that should be good enough for us. For the moment, let’s say heads we win, tails we win.