We haven't done much writing about Julio Jones here at the Herd, perhaps because we don't want to jinx the potential of the Rams taking him at #14. After all, we started writing about Danny Watkins last month at the Senior Bowl, and his draft stock has soared to the point that he may no longer be around by the middle of the 2nd round.
And of course, there is a legitimate undercurrent of discussion about whether the Rams should even prioritize WR in this year’s draft, as we covered this week. But the temptation is so strong to match up the best available edge talent with your budding superstar quarterback.... So strong that regardless of the shuffling up and down of various prospects -- is Nick Fairley #1? Cam Newton? Da’Quan Bowers? Who’s rising? Who’s falling? -- Julio Jones to the Rams at #14 may be the single most consistent pick across all mock drafts out there.
Oh, and Jones appears to be every bit the real deal. His physicality and aggressiveness jumps off the screen when watching his highlight videos. Paired with Bradford, visions of the next Terrell Owens start dancing in my head. And the pre-Combine hype is not slowing down at all.
Just got off the phone with area scout, thinks #Alabama WR Julio Jones will be better athlete at Combine than Georgia WR AJ Green #nfldraft
Or this, from a six-year member of the NFL's Draft Advisory Committee...
“Some scouts like Green better than Jones but if I needed a wideout and both were there, Jones is my guy.”-- Greg Gabriel, National Football Post
We're getting to the point in pre-draft coverage where, for a player as heavily scouted and touted as this, the scouting reports themselves all converge on similar points. He "has the size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and toughness to be a nightmare after the catch" and "will make the tough catch with defensive backs draped on him, especially in the end zone." He "will run routes across the middle with no fear" and "is one hell of a downfield blocker." And he's a "tough player who has proven an ability to not only play through injury, but play well."
The downsides? He has "just average speed," his hands aren't elite, and he isn't yet a polished route-runner. Watching his highlight reel though, those negatives seem easily brushed off.
All of this is essentially public record at this point; these bullet points are trotted out in any barstool or Twitter debate. We know what kind of prospect Julio Jones is -- a damn good one. The question is, why does the debate against picking Jones seem to be growing stronger?
Mayock on Julio Jones-to-Rams: "If Julio's there, they probably sprint up to the podium with the card. He probably won't get past St. Louis"
Key word: "IF."
Here's one explanation. It seems as though draft pundits have had this hypothetical "if" in the back of their heads for so long, and have already worked on their alternative scenarios (Leading candidate: Missouri DE/OLB Aldon Smith. Runner up: "trade down.") that those alternatives have now ossified as their perception of reality. To the point that some very smart people will say, if the pass-catcher and the pass-rusher were both there, they would prefer the rusher.
It's a sober, dry, and almost contrary logic. One that looks at the youth of our receivers and what Bradford was able to do with them last year, and looks at the age of James Hall and Fred Robbins, and points to the D-line almost relievedly: there's our biggest need! Never mind what our receivers' ceilings are, or how far above his floor Hall is playing.
Here's another. The receiver, the weapon, is the "sexy" pick. as opposed to the "smart" one. As though there was a distinguishable difference this year. After all, for fans of the trenches, of disruption, Aldon Smith is a "sexy" pick, a potential Demarcus Ware gamble of a pick -- and one with a real shadow of risk of going flat bust. But we all know that for every fan of the sack, there are ten fans of the brilliant catch and run, the emphatic first-down gesture, the touchdown dance. And it's oh so important for us semi-educated bystanders, for us members of the Rams semi-media, to remain sober, to remain "smart." To hold up the pass rusher as being every bit as important as the pass catcher.
Well, to hell with that.
The tape on Jones still flickers on your screen. His combine measurements and times will be flooding the internet. He offers such an obvious upgrade in pure physical talent over anyone on the Rams roster -- bigger than all but Danario, tougher than all but perhaps Amendola, and more "it" factor than anyone besides Jackson in his prime.
You can't avoid the temptation. You can't help but imagine "what if..." And neither can I. Suddenly we start considering trade-up scenarios. Suddenly the voice in my head says we have to land a grade-A weapon for Bradford to grow with, a Michael Irvin for our Troy Aikman.
I'm not saying the debate is over. Far from it. But there's no doubt that Julio Jones remains the most tempting commodity out there for the Rams. And I for one think that succumbing to temptation, in this case, might be a very good thing.