The Falcons rolled the dice and sold the farm to get one blue chip playmaker while the Saints potentially added two without having to trade away picks.
There are only three teams so stacked with talent – the Ravens, the Steelers and the Packers – that they could afford to give up next year’s 1st, this year’s 2nd, and 4ths in both seasons for just one player. The teams I mentioned have few if any holes. Any pick they make in the 1st or second round is not guaranteed any role on the team. You only get 53 in September.
Julio Jones will no doubt make the Falcons a better team. In whatever workouts he does, I’m sure he’ll refine the “getting the ball into his hands” thing, as what he does after he has the ball is what makes him worth trading for.
The Falcons were not an elite defense last year. They gave up 65% completion percentage. The 22 interceptions looks gaudy but in the 9 games after week 9 – including the home playoff game – they only got multiple interceptions two times: once in a home loss to the Saints and once against Matt Hasselbeck. Also after week 9, they held opponents to under 20 first downs five times, but four of those opponents had losing records. They kept Freeman’s Bucs to 19 first downs but a controversial play ended the final offensive drive of the Buccaneers. They allowed 20 or more first downs four times during that span and those were all teams with winning records.
Adding up blue chip and red chip players isn’t a scientific way to predict wins and losses but the abundance of these players is why I think players determine games a lot more than coaches do. The Saints have a foundation in their no-name receiving corps, elite receiving back Pierre Thomas and soon-to-be elite receiving tight end Jimmy Graham catching passes from Drew Brees. Their offensive and defensive lines have a lot of free agents – along with Scott Shanle – but they have upgraded their pass rush with several picks in the draft. They also have a potential overload of playmakers in their secondary – Jabari Greer, Patrick Robinson and Malcolm Jenkins – even if Roman Harper and Darren Sharper play elsewhere. Adding Mark Ingram and Cameron Jordan – two of the biggest names in the draft – solidifies them as the team with the most blue chip players in the division.
Likewise, Tampa Bay entered this draft with more sizzle than the Falcons. Aqib Talib, Mike Williams, Kellen Winslow, LeGarrette Blount, Arrelious Benn, Geno Hayes, and Josh Freeman are all 27 and under and each can change the game in one moment. I wouldn’t include Gerald McCoy in that group yet but he definitely has the ability to make plays. They exited the draft with two bonafide freaks in Da’Quan Bowers and Adrian Clayborn.
The Falcons’ biggest gamebreaker outside of Roddy White and John Abraham is Brent Grimes with 23 passes defensed and 5 interceptions. Some would argue this pushes the case to make the trade: get Julio Jones because he’s the player most certain to be a difference maker or get Julio Jones because he’s a cut above other difference makers.
Time will tell if the Falcons made the right move, but their overall roster isn’t as impressive as those of two of their rivals.
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