Ever since Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones put on a show at the NFL combine in late February on a broken foot, the debate has raged. Georgia receiver A.J. Green was widely touted as the best playmaking receiver in the draft, but there is a strong minority that believes Jones will be the better pro.
No one debates that Green and Jones are the cream of the crop at the receiver position in this year's draft class, but some believe Jones body type will handle the demands of the NFL game better than that of Green. At 6'2" and 220 pounds, Jones is well put together. Green has a slighter frame, but has roughly the same measurables at 6'3 ½" 211.
Jones ran better at the combine clocking in a time of 4.34 in the 40. Green's best was a 4.48. Jones also had superior numbers in the vertical leap, broad jump and three cone drill. Green was better by one rep on the bench and slightly faster in the short shuttle.
Ask any league scout however, and they'll tell you it's not the workout in shorts that will change their mind.
"I don't ever change based on what I see at the combine," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. "My rankings are based on tape. A.J. Green was always a top 10 pick in my mind. Julio is more like 11 to 20 and I think what Julio did (at the combine) forced me to go back and watch the LSU tape again. He made catches against Patrick Peterson. That was my favorite tape to watch. Patrick Peterson got up in his face and pressed him and when he got physical at the line of scrimmage Julio had trouble getting off. When he bailed and he let Julio off, he won. It was a great matchup with two of the best players in the country."
Jones played in 39 games for Alabama and was a three-year starter. He had 15 touchdowns in his career on 176 receptions and averaged just under 15 yards per catch (14.8).
Green played in 31 games for Georgia and was also a three-year starter. He had just 105 receptions, but had 23 total touchdowns and averaged an eye-popping 24.2 yards per catch despite being every opponent's number one mark.
Weighing in Green's favor is the fact that Georgia's offense has a much greater tendency to pass than Alabama, but Green's playmaking ability is hard to argue.
"We've heard people say they think (Jones) is better than A.J. Green," said ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay. "I don't think that at all."
In the eyes of most, while Jones times better in workouts Green is one of those classic skill position players that plays faster than he times. Some talent evaluators say it's his lateral quickness to gain consistent separation that makes him such an effective play maker. Others believe it's his active hands that enable him to get off press coverage so quickly while also being capable of making highlight reel catches.
"He's a pretty special wide receiver," said Mayock. "The game that really caught my eye was the one he had the four game suspension and came back against Colorado. Colorado has two NFL corners in Jimmy Smith and Julio Brown, and he came out and I think he had seven catches for 118 or 120 yards and two touchdowns and he dominated the game. It was his first week back. He had two or three touchdown catches, one of which was a back-handed, back shoulder throw. To me he's a top 10 pick. He's the best wide receiver I saw on tape. He has the combination of height, weight, speed. He catches the football. I believe he's physical enough to get off press coverage. So if you're looking for any guy that can fit any offense I think A.J. Green is the guy."
"I don't think Julio has closed the gap," said McShay. "I really like Julio Jones. I have him with a high first round grade, the 11th best prospect in this class. I rarely have wide receivers that high. I just think A.J. Green provides more explosiveness and big play ability and he's a better overall athlete. He makes more spectacular catches, tougher catches, catches in traffic and he's more consistent catching the football.
"Julio Jones is very, very, very good, but A.J. Green is special. I just think he's at a different level. So if I'm taking a receiver and I'm deciding between these two, I'm not wasting a minute in turning in the card for A.J. Green."
While the media pits the two SEC receivers against one another, the players themselves are competitors, but friends as well.
"We're working out at the same place in Phoenix," said Green. "We're friends, we work out together. He's a great guy."
"We're both big playmakers," said Jones. "A.J.'s a great guy. We've been working out together. We're just two different guys."
When it comes to who the better player is neither will disrespect the other, but they each have a healthy amount of self-confidence.
"To me, I am (the best)," said Jones. "But A.J.'s a great receiver and there are whole bunch of other guys who are very good as well. But I do stuff great. I'm a great blocker. I'm a physical receiver. A lot of guys are finesse type guys. You really can't compare their game to mine because they're different. I can't say I'm better than A.J. and I can't say he's better than me."
"Me and Julio don't get caught up in the hype and we're just two guys trying to be the best," said Green. "I think I'm the best, I'm going to do what I can to be the number one receiver and I feel like Julio's going to do his best. We're not going to be mad if I'm not the top receiver drafted. It's not going to mess with our friendship. Whatever happens, happens."
Throughout the month of April, we are running 2011 NFL Draft prospect stories each week. In addition, Bills fans can vote in the Bills and M&T Bank Draft Day Challenge who they think will be the Bills first pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, and have the chance to win a Bills Game Day Experience to remember. Five grand prize winners will get sideline passes, M&T Bank Club tickets that include food and beverage, a Bills Alumni meet and greet and a Bills helmet. Click here to vote.