NFL

Billick on AFC East, North draft needs

Here's what the Steelers could do in the draft.
Here's what the Steelers could do in the draft.
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Brian Billick

Brian Billick served as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens from 1999-2007, winning Super Bowl XXXV. He has also authored books, including More Than A Game: The Glorious Present and Uncertain Future of the NFL. Follow him on Twitter.

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Billick examines the AFC East, AFC North draft needs and the top wide receiver and tight end prospects.

April 8 | April 7 | April 6 | April 5 | April 4

 

April 8

 

Kendricks still learning TE position

 

Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks is a versatile athlete who will provide plenty of mismatch opportunities for future opponents. As a tight end for the Badgers, he lined up all over the field: outside the numbers, in the slot, on the line of scrimmage and sometimes in the backfield.

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He is a former wide receiver who is still learning proper technique for an everyday tight end.

He is a scrapper on the line and fights hard to sustain the point of attack on the line of scrimmage. With that effort and improved technique, he could become an effective situational blocker in the NFL. Going into college, he was recruiter by SEC schools to run track, so you know he has great acceleration and top end speed. He had 78 college receptions for an average of 14.9 yards per catch.

At the next level, Kendricks will be an H-back/receiving tight end similar to the way the New York Jets use Dustin Keller and how the Houston Texans used Owen Daniels in 2009. I consider him to be the third best tight end in the draft and look for him to be selected in the third round.

 

Williams displays great hands


Similar to Kendricks of Wisconsin, D.J. Williams has the versatility to be a matchup nightmare for defenses. He, too, has lined up all over the field to create confusion within the secondary. Some talent evaluators are looking at him as a full-time H-back in the NFL, but I still think he has value in the right system to be a Dallas Clark-type receiver.

Williams was the 2010 Mackey Award winner and a favorite target of Ryan Mallett for the Razorbacks. He hauled in 54 receptions for 627 yards last season. At the NFL Scouting Combine, he showed up in tremendous shape with a chiseled body at 6-foot-2 1/8 and 245 pounds. He ran a 4.67 40, showing the type of speed that teams can use up the seam to stretch the middle of the field.

On tape and at the Senior Bowl, he made great catch after great catch displaying "stick em" like hands. He showed the ability to hold onto the ball going over the middle and taking a hard hit. He fought hard in blocking situations, but did best when delivering a block from pre-snap motion.

 

Cameron needs lots of development

 

USC's Jordan Cameron is a raw athlete who is still sharpening his football skills. Before transferring to USC, he was a basketball player for BYU. Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates are evidence that former basketball players make great NFL tight ends, but let's not compare this kid to a couple of future Hall of Famers. Instead, I compare his upside and potential to that of Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints.

Last season, Cameron had only 16 catches for 126 yards and one touchdown, so you are definitely drafting him on potential more so than game tape. He shows the athleticism and ball skills that will translate very well into the NFL.

With his basketball background, you can imagine that his jump-ball skills and ability to attack the ball int he air will be very valuable. He shows good change of direction and quick cuts for a player of nearly 6-foot-6. He is aggressive in run blocking and gives great effort, but I see him fitting in with an offense that already has an established prototypical tight end, allowing Cameron to play situationally in a variety of sets.

Similar to the mold of the New England Patriots with Rob Gronkowski establishing himself as the more traditional on the line type tight end, and having Aaron Hernandez line up as a slot receiver or second tight end. I look for teams to start showing interest around the fifth round.

 

April 7

 

Steelers could draft eventual replacement for starters

 

It's no coincidence that the two teams most committed to building via the draft both ended up in last season's Super Bowl. Thirty-nine of the 44 starters in the Super Bowl began their careers on their respective teams.

The Pittsburgh Steelers rarely count on a draft choice, even a first-rounder, to step into an immediate starting position. Having said that, the effect of last year's 18th overall pick, Maurkice Pouncey, was substantial and his not being available for the Super Bowl had a tangible effect on that team.

Turnovers and explosive plays are the two major indicators of success in the NFL. In 2010, they were the best team in the league in turnover/explosive play deferential. That’s taking the difference between the turnover margin and explosive plays you get verses those you give up. That bodes well for the Steelers going into 2011.

Having said that, the Steelers have some definite needs. Offensive tackle Flozell Adams, defensive linemen Aaron Smith and Casey Hampton, and linebacker James Farrior are all on the back end of great careers.

The Steelers will have plenty of options at any of these positions with the 31st pick of the draft. As it always seems to be the case, they could also be looking for another cornerback to add to the mix.

Pittsburgh will get a break with next year's schedule with their out-of-conference teams coming from NFC West. They will take on the AFC South in their out-of-division games along with a trip to Kansas City and playing host to the New England Patriots.

 

Ravens need explosive players

 

Nobody does a better job assembling personnel than Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore Ravens. Their record, particularly in the early rounds, is nearly perfect even though they are typically choosing in the bottom half of the first round. Players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Ben Grubbs and Todd Heap all were acquired in this familiar territory. As is normal, they have the 26th pick of this year.

Outside of the fact that they are an aging team, they’re only a couple of areas that need to be addressed heading into the draft. Haloti Ngata is the most dominant inside defensive linemen in the league and has already been franchised. They also would like to keep unrestricted free agent defensive back Chris Carr and safety Dawan Landry.

Even with that, new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano would probably like to shore up his secondary and find an edge pass rusher to compliment Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs.

Offensively, the Ravens' biggest need is one that has typically been a bust in Ravens' draft history. Their top four outside receivers, Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte Stallworth have all been acquired outside of the draft.

Those two rare first-round busts were Travis Taylor, the 10th pick in 2000, and Mark Clayton, who was the 22nd pick in 2005. Third-rounders Yamon Figurs and Devard Darling have not faired any better. The Ravens have been among the leagues worst at generating explosive plays and need to find some.

They might also consider drafting a center to eventually replace Matt Birk or should they lose fullback LeRon McClain to free agency, they may need to address that position in later rounds.

The Ravens get a scheduling break this season with their NFC divisional foes coming out of the West but do have to face the dangerous AFC South along with games versus the Jets and on the road against the Chargers.

 

Rudolph is top tight end


Despite Kyle Rudolph's injury plagued 2010 season, he is still the best available tight end is this year's draft.

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At the NFL Scouting Combine, he measured in at 6-foot-6 1/8 and 259 pounds but injuries limited his participation the remainder of the week.

Rudolph was a three-year starter at Notre Dame and holds the single-game receiving yards record, gaining 164 yards against Michigan. On tape, he shows soft hands with a natural ability to come down with the catch consistently. He goes up and battles for jump balls at their highest point and uses his 6-foot-6 frame to shield out defenders.

He is an excellent route runner for his size and makes sharp cuts to create separation from man-to-man coverage. Rudolph has the versatility to line up on the line of scrimmage, in the slot or even in the backfield to create mismatches.

He will need to continue to work on his inline blocking technique to stay balanced and hold the point of attack, but I do like the effort and competitive nature he brings to the blocking aspect of his game.

Overall, Rudolph is the best tight end in a fairly decent year of talent. He will give teams more of a well rounded option rather than a scheme specific tight end such as D.J. Williams or Lance Kendricks. I compare the potential and playing style of Kyle Rudolph to John Carlson or Rob Gronkowski, both of whom are the future of the tight end position.

 

Stocker will be solid contributor

 

Tennessee's Luke Stocker reminds me of another former Volunteer, Jason Witten. Witten may be a better athlete, but they have similar body types and playing styles.

Stocker isn't ever going to run by a defender, but he is an effective short yardage, move-the-chains type of receiver. He has surprisingly soft hands and is a reliable target. Similar to Witten, his routes aren't always going to be crisp with a snap in and out of the break, but he will use his body positioning to get the defender on his back and box him out for the catch.

He is a smart player who knows when he is the "hot" receiver and needs to turn quickly for the ball.

He also picks up stunts and blitz packages well in pass protection on the line of scrimmage. Stocker will make his money securing the edge and being a sixth lineman, but in turn, will be a huge factor in the play action game.

Stocker is probably the best all around tight-end in this draft, but isn't going to give you explosive plays like Kyle Rudolph. He isn't a down field threat in the passing game, but will be a consistent performer in all phases of the game. I look for him to be the second tight end selected at the NFL draft - most likely in the late second or early third round.

 

April 6

 

Bengals could draft WR

 

After dominating the AFC North in 2009, the Bengals are back to drafting among the top 10, making for seven top-10 picks this decade.

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The Bengals have now had back-to-back years of solid, if not spectacular, defensive play. After being a dominate run team in 2009, the thought was that Carson Palmer would now augment that attack with an improved passing attack. With the free-agent acquisition of Terrell Owens and the drafting of rookies Jermain Gresham and Jordan Shipley in the first and third rounds respectively, the offense was sure to improve. Even though each of those players played well, they slipped to 27th in the NFL in rushing and the offensive proved to be a huge liability.

As if there wasn't enough concern on offense already, now the Bengals are unsure if quarterback is going to be a major need for them or not. The uncertain status of Carson Palmer and his stated intention to retire if not traded leaves Cincinnati in a no-man’s land with the fourth pick of the draft.

Whether Carson stays or not, the fourth pick in this year's draft is too early to consider a quarterback, and there are more talented options at wide receiver. Perhaps taking a top-flight receiver, such as A.J. Green, with this pick might prove enough to entice Palmer back?

The Bengals also need to address the offensive and defensive lines, possibly in the second and third rounds where there could be some excellent value at both positions.

As always, the Bengals have to face the Ravens and Steelers twice, and pick up the AFC South as their out-of-division opponent in the AFC. They will catch a break in facing the NFC West, Buffalo and Denver in their remaining schedule.

 

Browns need help on defense


Since returning to the league in 1999, the Cleveland Browns have had only one playoff year and are coming off three consecutive years of double-digit losses. This would not normally be reason for optimism.

However under the leadership of Mike Holmgren, new head coach Pat Shurmur and new defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, the Browns seem to have a stability and direction that have not existed in recent years.

Cleveland seems to have settled on last year's third-round choice of Colt McCoy at quarterback, for which they should receive a ton of credit for waiting until the third round to select the quarterback many thought they would take much earlier. They have drafted well along the offensive line getting Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas with the first pick in 2007, Alex Mack with the first pick in 2009 and last years third round pick Shawn Lauvao.

Cleveland's needs on offense are at wide receiver, where the Browns are among the worst in the NFL in generating explosive plays, and possibly at tackle to secure the right edge. However, the needs on offense come secondary to the holes they should fill on defense.

The front seven is made up of mostly late-round picks, free agents and waiver-wire acquisitions. The Browns have cut Shaun Rogers and may lose D'Qwell Jackson to free agency. No one would criticize Cleveland for using the sixth, 37th and 70th picks of the draft all on the front seven.

Cleveland got two starters in the secondary in last year's draft with first-rounder Joe Haden and second-rounder T.J. Ward.

The Browns get a break in playing the NFC West as their out-of-conference opponent but face the AFC South along with Miami and Oakland in conference play.

 

Little possibly a draft steal

 

North Carolina's Greg Little is often overlooked in this year's crop of wide receiver prospects, but he has a skill set and body type that could make him a very memorable player in the NFL. Like many other Tar Heels, Little was suspended for the entire 2010 season.

During the NFL Scouting Combine and North Carolina's pro day, Little showed off his very well put-together 6-foot-2 1/2, 231-pound frame. He is a very smooth and fluid athlete who displays very natural hands. NFL Network's Mike Mayock even suggests he has the best hands in the draft.

He doesn't have an elite burst and acceleration off the ball, but he does get in and out of his breaks efficiently and has the body type to seal defenders away from the ball. While he won't be a consistent deep threat, he is physical enough to get tough yardage and runs through tacklers once the ball is in his hands. He also shows the threat to be a great jump-ball threat in the red zone as he adjusts well to the ball in the air and attacks it at it highest point.

Greg Little has the prototypical NFL size that will make him an attractive prospect but not having an entire year's worth of tape are going to make some teams nervous. I think he will fall into the late second or possibly early third round, and whoever gets him that late may be getting a huge value. I liken him to Andre Johnson with his physical playing style and body type.

 

Cobb may thrive as 'wildcat' option

 

Kentucky's Randall Cobb has a similar skill set to Percy Harvin when he was coming out a couple years ago. In 2010, Cobb broke the SEC single-season record for all-purpose yardage with 2,396 including 1,017 receiving and 424 rushing. Last season, he scored at least one touchdown as a receiver, running back, quarterback and returner — accounting for 16 touchdowns overall.

As expected, when watching him on the field, you see an extremely versatile athlete who displays very natural movements on the field. He catches the ball with ease, extending his arms out fully to catch the ball away from his body and the defender. He runs crisp routes and adjusts and tracks the ball in the air extremely well. He shows the skill to play either outside or as a slot receiver, but I think he would be best suited inside. This way, he can get the ball quickly and use his run-after-catch ability to make big plays.

He has great acceleration in short bursts that make him tough to tackle in the open field. Outside of his playmaking ability, I really like the fact that he is a tough and willing blocker to help spring his teammates for bigger gains. He also will be a special teams contributor from Day 1.

With the "wildcat" offense still being prevalent in today's NFL, this former Kentucky Wildcat will give his future team a ton of versatility and productivity. Most teams will be looking for him as the fifth best receiver in this draft.

 

Young a productive receiver

 

Titus Young out of Boise State has had back-to-back seasons of 70-plus receptions and 1,000-plus yards. Last year, Young broke Boise's single-season receiving yards mark with 1,215 and finished his career as the all-time receiving yards leader with 3,063. His production numbers could be a little inflated based on the passing system the Broncos utilize, but I think he has the skill set to be a fine receiver in the NFL.

Young has good top end speed (4.53 40-yard dash), but his quickness and ability to snap in and out of breaks is what sets him apart. He may have been the best route runner at the Senior Bowl, easily breaking off routes and creating instant separation from the defensive backs in one-on-one drills. He has great hips and head motion out of his plant and drives his body back to the ball. He is a little undersized (5-foot-11 3/4, 174 pounds) for a prototypical outside receiver in the NFL, but he could be a DeSean Jackson type if plugged into the right system. He has the similar ability to stretch the field and break games wide open.

With 71 receptions last year, it is hard to suggest he could have more consistent hands, but he appears to have some concentration lapses which lead to drops on what should be easy catches.

I had the chance to do an on-field demo with Titus about a week ago, and he proved to me that he was an intelligent receiver who studies defenses and techniques. He was an impressive young man (especially for someone that has some maturity concerns coming into the draft). I look for him to go somewhere in the middle of the second round.

April 5

 

Patriots can make lots of noise at draft

 

The league may consider renaming this year's draft the New England Patriots Invitational. New England has six picks in the first 100 selections via trades from the Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings.

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These could prove a potent combination for the Patriots. Just one year ago, they transformed four picks within the first two rounds into starters by way of Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Jermain Cunninghamm and Brandon Spikes.

The Patriots' first pick is 17th overall and that could present several options at both the offensive line or possibly running back.

Undrafted free agent BenJarvus Green-Ellis was very productive, but Fred Taylor and Kevin Faulk could be at the end of their productivity while Danny Woodhead may have been an overachiever.

Defensively the Pats are very young, but got better with every outing. Still, they could add players at defensive end, outside linebacker and probably cornerback.

The 2011 schedule is stacked with the NFC East, Indy and Pittsburgh. They will face the AFC West in their out-of-division schedule.

 

Jets face tall task

 

After two straight appearances in the AFC Championship Game, Rex Ryan has promised the fans a Super Bowl championship this year. The New York Jets have a lot of work to do if they are going to fulfill that promise.

The bulk of the wide receiver corps are free agents, last year's second round pick guard Vladimir Ducasse needs to step up, oft-injured nose tackle Kris Jenkins and aging free agent defensive lineman Shaun Ellis may need to be replaced and the talented cornerbacks need need help at safety to fortify the secondary.

The Jets defense was among the top 10 in sacks but had to apply pressure with linebacker and defensive back blitz packages to get it done. This draft is deep in defensive lineman and Ryan has never been one to pass up good D-line talent. The Jets helped themselves this offseason by playing the franchise tag on linebacker David Harris, and finally giving up on 2008 sixth overall draft pick linebacker Vernon Gholston.

The Jets are going to have to make do with the 30th pick in the 1st and 3rd rounds, because they gave up their second-round selection to acquire cornerback Antonio Cromartie from San Diego.

New York will have to make cross-country trips to Oakland and Denver as the AFC West accounts for its out-of-division opponents. The Jets stay closer to home when they take on the NFC East in their out-of-conference schedule and will play Baltimore on the road.

 

Hankerson more than just big body

 

Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Leonard Hankerson has been a budding prospect since his 2009 season of 45 receptions for 801 yards and six touchdowns. He followed that up with a senior year in which he broke the single-season records for receptions (72), receiving yards (1,156) and receiving touchdowns (13). Hankerson is a two-year starter for the Hurricanes and a team captain.

On the field, he is surprisingly quick in and out of breaks and catches the football with his hands rather than in his body. He is a big frame target who has a nice long arms to make for a big catch radius for the quarterback to throw into. Additionally, he uses those long arms to get off press coverage by holding the corner off his pads. He wasn't just a one trick pony who caught deep jump balls over and over, he ran routes of the passing tree, very similar to what NFL teams will ask of him.

Hankerson backed up his very productive final year with a stellar performance at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. He quickly became one of the more trusted receivers and was targeted frequently in practice and in the game.

The biggest question mark for Hankerson was his top speed, but he quickly dissolved those doubts by running a 4.43 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine. That was the exact time of Maryland's Torrey Smith, the supposed burner of the draft. In comparison, Hankerson gives an NFL team much more diversity and consistency at the wide receiver position.

 

Basketball background helps Baldwin

 

Jon Baldwin is an athletic wide receiver who was a two-year starter for the Pittsburgh Panthers. Baldwin was quite the high school basketball player and was selected to the McDonald'a All America team. I met Jon at the NFL Scouting Combine, and he told me that his high school coach is the one who encouraged him to pursue football at the next level. His coach told him there were "100 other kids in New York City that could do what he does on a basketball court."

You can see those basketball influences in him as a football player. He tracks and adjusts to the ball well in the air and attacks at it's highest point in jump-ball situations. He is a big physical receiver who uses his body to "box out" defenders and shield them from the ball.

Similar to most tall rookie receivers, he will need to learn how to get off press coverage that is more prominent in the NFL game than college. He is a little upright in his stance at the line of scrimmage, exposing a lot of shoulder with gives the corner a big target to jam him out of his route.

Having top-end speed was a huge question mark going into the Combine, but he did run a better than expected 4.5 40-yard dash. That speed combined with his 6-foot-4 3/8 and 228-pound frame will make him an intriguing prospect.

Baldwin is in the discussion as the third best WR prospect in this year's draft class, but some teams think of him as having a "diva" personality. He will continue to address those concerns during visits and individual workouts with teams prior to the draft, and I look for him to be selected in the second round.

 

Smith needs more than speed

 

Maryland's Torrey Smith reminds me of another speedy Maryland Terrapin, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and not just because of their college roots. They are both straight-line speedsters who can be explosive playmakers but inconsistently taints their overall ability.

On tape, Smith appears to be a little tight in his routes and struggles maintaining his elite speed in and out of his breaks. Additionally, he shows a lack of flexibility when trying to adjust to poorly thrown balls. On a field stretching "go" route — his best — he seems uncomfortable adjusting to balls thrown over his outside shoulder, losing track of the ball when rolling his head inside out. Also on deeper routes, he has a tendency to attack the ball with just on arm, he will need to reach out with two to consistently bring balls down in the NFL.

I do like how Smith eats up cushion off the snap, but he will need to prove he can snap off a comeback route for the deep threat to be more meaningful. He is better at running by defenders in man coverage, but has shown the awareness to throttle down in zone coverage. After the catch, he is a major threat, as it was very difficult for tacklers to bring him down with just an arm tackle. Once in the open field, there won't be many who can chase him down.

Some talent evaluators have Smith as the third best wide receiver int he draft, but I hesitate to give him such a high grade. His speed with be enticing, but I would encourage teams to look at the full tape before using a first-round pick on him.

 

April 4

 

Bills have concerns almost everywhere

 

The Buffalo Bills are one of only two teams to not have made the playoffs this century and will have their eighth chance in the past ten years to select in the top half of each round. Last year's top three picks: running back C.J. Spiller, defensive tackle Torell Troup and defensive end Alex Carrington all failed to crack the starting lineup and are listed as backups.

The Bills were last in the league in rushing defense and gave up at least 200 yards on the ground in half of their games. They ranked 25th in the league in total offense and will need to decide if they saw enough last year to be satisfied with their quarterback position.

The late season surge of journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick may help the Bills avoid the mistake of taking a quarterback with the third overall pick. Instead, they should focus their attention on the defensive side of the ball in a year when the top half of the draft is loaded with defensive players. The Bills' most recent draft choices at quarterback, J.P. Losman in 2004 and Trent Edwards in 2007, might indicate that this would be a better course of action.

Besides inside linebacker, where Paul Posluszny returned from injury to have a solid 2010 season, the Bills can use help at virtually every other position.

The Bills' have a chance to overcome their historic struggle of establishing a defensive line via the draft. In addition to the two picks in the first three rounds last year, the Bills have drafted three defensive lineman in the first round this decade, Erik Flowers in 2000, Jon McCargo in 2006 and Aaron Maybin in 2009. None is currently even on the roster.

Only second-rounder Chris Kelsay and fifth rounder Kyle Williams have proven to be of any real value.

Offensively, it won't matter what they do at quarterback if they don’t rebuild the offensive line and add to the excellent selection of offensive guard Eric Wood, whom they got in the first round in 2009.

Along with their always-tough AFC East schedule, the Bills won't have to go far from home as they swing through the strong NFC East. Their other out-of-division opponents include the AFC West, the Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals.

 

Dolphins could draft running back

 

With all the things that have gone on in Miami over the past two seasons, one thing brings into sharp focus the difficulties the Dolphins have had.

Built under the Bill Parcells model of "play good defense and run the ball," Miami went from fourth in the league in rushing in 2009 to 21st in 2010.

Under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, the reverse was true for the defense, going from 22nd in the league in total defense in 2009 to sixth in 2010.

Miami used its first two picks in last year's draft on the front seven by selecting defensive tackle Jared Odrick with the 28th pick and defensive end Koa Misi at No. 40 in the second round. Both are now established starters and eight of the starting 11 on defense have come via the draft.

With Jake Long and Vernon Carey, both former first-round picks, manning the offensive tackle spots, the Dolphins may want to focus on the interior of their offensive line with the 15th pick. They may also consider taking the first running back off the board if they believe they will lose Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to free agency.

The Dolphins cannot afford to miss on their first-round pick because they are without a second via the Brandon Marshall trade last year with Denver.

Their commitment to Chad Henne as their starter might be tested if one of the top rated quarterbacks should slip to this spot.

Along with their always tough AFC East schedule, the Dolphins will have to play the NFC East, AFC West, Houston and Cleveland.

 

Green could make quick impact

 

Georgia's A.J. Green has been considered the top wide receiver prospect since the day he became eligible for the draft. While, Alabama's Julio Jones is gaining ground, Green still remains at the top of the list.

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Green measures in at 6-foot-3 5/8 and 211 pounds. He ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and jumped a 34.5-inch vertical. He uses that height, size, speed and jumping ability very effectively on the field. He attacks the ball in the air and often catches the ball at its highest point, making it very difficult for defenders to get a hand on the ball. He has a good burst into his routes and great body control to adjust to poorly thrown balls, making a tough catch look almost effortless. He shows good agility and running skills to gain yards after the catch and make the most out of his touches.

Even with his height, he shows above average ability to get off bump coverage and get back into his route quickly. All in all, he is a big threat receiver that will have an early impact on whatever team selects him.

He has been drawing comparisons anywhere from Calvin Johnson to Randy Moss, but I am not quite ready to go that far. For now, I liken his game play to Tampa Bay's Mike Williams. Coming out of Syracuse, Williams had first-round talent, but dropped into the fourth round due to off-the-field concerns. Last year, as a rookie, Williams had 65 receptions for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns. I would look for Green to have a similar impact to his respective team next year.

 

Jones compares to Boldin

 

Jones plays tough Julio Jones is a three-year starter from Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide. He measures in at 6-foot-2 3/4 and 220 pounds. Jones has always been considered an elite prospect with a high first-round grade, but he raised his stock even more during the NFL Scouting Combine.

It was there that he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash and jumped a 38.5-inch vertical, all while having a bone injury in his foot. Not only does that show supreme athleticism but also a certain level of toughness that some NFL prima donnas at the wide receiver position lack.

Jones carries that toughness onto the field as well. He shows a no-fear mentality when going across the middle, and often gives up his body in order to make a catch. He also displays that 4.39 speed in his route running by maintaining close to full speed when coming in and out of breaks. He also shows the ability to be a great double-move receiver who is so often used in NFL passing systems. When the ball is in his possession, he runs "angry" and often picks up yards after contact.

Jones is best when the defensive back tries to play press coverage but could work on his technique to eat up separation when the corner is playing off coverage. He has above average hands but will sometimes drop an easy pass by letting it get into his body.

Jones' Combine workout was very impressive and encouraged NFL scouts and talent evaluators to go back and look at additional tape. Some teams have claimed to move him ahead of A.J. Green on their draft board, but I would still consider him a close second. I believe Jones to be very comparable to Anquan Boldin and will give his future team that tough presence at the wide receiver position.

For more analysis, follow Billick on Twitter at @coachbillick.

Tagged: Bills, Bengals, Browns, Broncos, Lions, Titans, Dolphins, Patriots, Saints, Jets, Seahawks, Ravens, Steelers, Chargers, Texans, Ricky Williams, Shaun Ellis, Aaron Smith, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, Carson Palmer, D.J. Williams, Ronnie Brown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Chris Carr, Kyle Williams, Ben Grubbs, Jake Long, Aaron Maybin, Alex Mack, Eric Wood, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, T.J. Ward

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