Where there's smoke, there's a trade up.
The Atlanta Falcons pulled the trigger on a big trade during the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, moving from No. 27 to No. 6 — the Cleveland Browns' spot — to select Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones.
The Falcons have given up their second round (59 overall) and fourth round (124 overall) picks this year, plus their first and fourth next year.
Reports were flowing in all day Thursday that the Falcons were aggressively trying to move up to select either Jones or Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green.
Jones was a standout with Alabama, and is considered to be a huge vertical threat and explosive playmaker. Clearly, Dimitroff's insistence prior to the Draft that he was looking for a playmaker with that first pick was anything but smoke.
Jones ran a 4.39 40 at the Combine in February, repped 17 times on the bench and had an impressive vertical of 38.5.
Jones, 6-4, 220 pounds, established himself as one of the premier wide receivers in college football at the University of Alabama. In 40 games he caught 179 passes for 2,653 yards with 15 touchdowns, and accumulated 3,084 all-purpose yards. His 179 receptions rank second all-time at Alabama, while his 2,653 receiving yards rank second in school history and his 15 touchdowns are tied for fourth in Crimson Tide annals.
"First of all, we're very pleased with our move," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "It was an aggressive bold move to get up from 27 to six, 21 spots. We knew that it was going to be an aggressive move and cost us and as an organization.
"We felt very strongly about the move up for a player that we believe truly adds the explosive, urgent athleticism that we were looking to improve on this team. We feel like Julio is a fine addition to our offense and will continue to help provide Matt [Ryan] with the tools that we need going forward as an offense and as a team."
In 2010, the Foley, Alabama native garnered second-team All-American honors and was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection. He was a member of watch lists for the Maxwell Award, given to the nation's top player and the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's top receiver after posting school records with 78 catches for 1,133 yards and added seven touchdowns as a junior in 2010. Jones was the recipient of the Tide's Most Valuable Player Award and one of six Alabama players presented with the team's Commitment to Academic Excellence Award.
"We go through all types of scenarios and this was one of the many scenarios that we tried to make sure we got our head around," Falcons head coach Mike Smith said. "I think we made a really good choice. Julio is a big, explosive wide receiver that is going to add to the explosiveness of our team. That's something that, in the offseason when we were studying, we know we've got to be more explosive. It's going to be a very competitive group now in terms of the wide receivers and you all know, we're all about the competition."
Jones started all 40 of the games he played in at Alabama and was a member of the Tide's 2009-10 BCS National Championship winning team. As a freshman in 2008, he became just the 11th true freshman in school history to start a season opener, he went on to start 14 games and set every freshman receiving record while leading the team with 58 receptions for 924 yards and four touchdowns. Jones earned first-team Freshman All-American honors by the Football Writers Association of America and Sporting News and a second-team All-SEC selection by the league's coaches and media. As a sophomore, Jones started all 13 games he played in and led the Tide's BCS National Championship squad with 43 receptions for 596 yards and four touchdowns. Known as a physical blocker, Jones helped open holes for RB Mark Ingram to win the Heisman Trophy with 1,658 and 17 touchdowns.
As a prep star at Foley High School, Jones set school records for receptions (194), receiving yards (3,287), receiving touchdowns (43) and total touchdowns (52). He added three rushing TDs, four scores on kickoff and punt returns and two on fumble returns. Jones also excelled as a member of Foley's track and field squad, winning multiple state titles in the high jump, long jump and triple jump.
Jones becomes the first wide receiver selected by the Falcons in the first round of the NFL Draft since Roddy White was picked as the 27th overall selection in 2005 out of UAB. He is the eighth player in Falcons history selected from the University of Alabama and second in as many years (OL Mike Johnson, third round in 2010). He is also just the third underclassmen selected by Dimitroff.
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