The careers of Julio Jones and A.J. Green will be inexorably linked for the next decade-plus. The latter was the ‘Golden Boy' of the 2011 receiver crop, regarded as the next great impact receiver, and the kind of pass catcher who can legitimately make a quarterback look better-a distinction few good receivers can claim.
Meanwhile his compatriot, Julio Jones was lost in the shuffle. A combination of injury, and Green's emergence left him in a lurch where far too many forget just how great he played in 2011, even with missing a few games.
It's customary for the league to put out their ‘Top 100' list each year, and it's a testament to the quality of the 2011 draft class that four players made the rankings; the noticeable absence was Jones, while Green slotted in at no.77.
Make no mistake: A.J. Green is an amazing receiver, and is gaining lofty comparisons to Randy Moss with fair cause, but if Green = Moss, then surely Jones = Terrell Owens (albeit a far more humble version). With the benefit of two more starts Green managed just 98 receiving yards more, on 11 more receptions, and he finished with one less touchdown than Julio. Even if you set aside those two missed games it's hard to deny the two receivers weren't comparable.
In case you don't already know, I write for Cat Scratch Reader-SB Nation's Carolina Panthers blog. Try as I might not the fear Julio Jones moving forward I just can't. I saw each player in 2011, and for my money Jones is far and away the more dangerous receiver; not only due to his rare combination of size and strength, but his uncanny ability as a run blocker. While Panthers fans may feel slighted Cam Newton was ranked 50th, it's criminal that Jones didn't get noticed more by the league.
There's little doubt if you pulled Julio aside and asked him he wouldn't really care; the blue-collar guys rarely do, but still as a fan of the National Football league I can't help but think this was a mammoth slight. When the 2012 season closes I have little doubt we'll see Jones firmly cemented in next year's ‘Top 100', and he'll likely be a staple for years to come.