The Atlanta Falcons sent their 2011 Nos. 27, 59 and 124 picks plus next year's first- and fourth-rounders to the Cleveland Browns for the chance to draft Alabama Crimson Tide WR Julio Jones No. 6. Five picks for one is a mighty, mighty steep investment, especially surprising considering the draft philosophy we've become accustomed to during the Thomas Dimitroff era.
While Falcons fans spent the evening either agog or giddy or just shaking and rocking in place while clutching their knees (personally, I just start eating lots of food when I'm nervous -- pretty glad Waffle House is open all night), here are some national perspectives from respected colleagues:
I thought the price was wicked steep for a guy with durability questions and inconsistent hands. I love the idea of finally getting a competent complement for Roddy White; he and Matt Ryan both needed it badly. He has a good chance of being worth the investment; the Falcons look much closer to being Super Bowl contenders.
Jones was no worse than the second-best receiver in the SEC last year, and that's only because A.J. Green's a celestial talent. I think the concerns about his hands and injury history are overblown; Jones is a trooper, the kind of football tough guy coaches love, and I'd be surprised if he didn't have a long, productive NFL career.
I love Julio Jones the football player. In fact, he may have been my favorite player in the draft. He's big, strong and has shown a toughness that's required in the NFL. I like him a lot on the field. The question is, though, do I like him enough to give up the package the Falcons did? I'm not so sure. The Falcons sacrificed a lot considering they already have one of the best receivers in the game on their team. I think Jones will be terrific in Atlanta but I can't say that I think I'd make the same trade.
I respect Arthur Blank and the Falcons' decision to move that far up to acquire the prized wide receiver prospect in this year's draft. If you feel your team is ready to win now and is only missing one or two key ingredients, then I'm a big believer in mortgaging part of the future to chase after an elusive Lombardi Trophy.
This is particularly true for teams that already have franchise quarterbacks in place -- teams like the Falcons, Patriots, Colts, and Steelers. In fact, I'd argue that the Pats have again made a big mistake by continuing to stockpile picks for the future instead of doing everything possible to try to win another ring or two while Tom Brady is still playing at a high level.
For my favorite team, the Steelers, I was sure hoping to see a similarly bold move when stud cornerback Prince Amukamara continued to be bypassed. In 2003, the Steelers moved up 11 spots to acquire Troy Polamalu. They surrendered a third and sixth round pick in exchange. With Amukamara on the board still at No. 20, I was sure hoping to see them trade up 11 places once more to land what I believe will be a fantastic CB for years to come. Alas, it wasn't meant to be.
Each situation is different, but I, for one, commend the Falcons' front office for boldly moving that far up to secure a local hero and a player that's almost assuredly going to be making highlight reel plays for Matt Ryan and the Falcons' offense for years to come.
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