(A series looking at the top players at various positions leading up to the 2011 NFL Draft, set for April 28-30.)
They were Parade All-Americans at the same time, they entered the Southeastern Conference at the same time, they tortured SEC defenses at the same time, and now Georgia's A.J. Green and Alabama's Julio Jones will enter the NFL at the same time, literally, as likely first-round picks in the 2011 draft.
It's expected that Green (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) will be the first wide receiver selected on April 28, and there have been various versions of the draft forecast where he is the first overall pick. Green was an All-SEC player as a freshman, and he finished his three-year college career with 23 receiving touchdowns. He is said to be a quarterback's dream.
Jones had his stock rise considerably after running a 4.39 at the Combine, and the fact he did it two days after the diagnosis of a stress fracture in his left foot simply added to the achievement. Jones also has had the experience of being a go-to receiver for a team involved in pressure situations, a team playing games that ended with trophy presentations, and so the NFL won't be too big for him. Probably would fit best with a team employing a West Coast-style offense.
After Green and Jones are drafted, and they will go in that order, the way the wide receivers come off the board could be based upon what a particular team prefers.
For teams that like size, there is Pitt's Jon Baldwin (6-4, 230) or Miami's Lance Hankerson (6-2, 210). If a team is looking for a receiver who can be effective in the slot, there are three popular choices – Troy's Jerrel Jernigan, Kentucky's Randall Cobb and Indiana's Tandon Doss. For teams most interested in players capable of forcing opponents to respect their speed, there are Titus Young from Boise State and Edmond Gates of Abilene Christian.
Cobb started four games at quarterback during his freshman season at Kentucky, and his versatile skill set could have made him a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2011 had he stayed for his senior season. As it was, as a team captain in 2010 Cobb scored seven touchdowns receiving and five more rushing, he threw three touchdown passes and returned a punt for a touchdown; he also returned kickoffs and served as the team's holder for placekicks.
Young ran a 4.43 at the Combine, but in addition to his straight-line speed he also is elusive and tough to get on the ground, and it's going to be important for him to maintain that elusiveness if he plans on playing at 174 pounds in the NFL. Gates ran a 4.31 at the Combine.
THE 2010 NFL DRAFT, WR STATISTICS
Number drafted: 28
Picks by round: 2 in the first; 2 in the second; 8 in the third; 4 in the fourth; 3 in the fifth; 5 in the sixth; 4 in the seventh
Highest pick: Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech, Round 1, 22nd overall, by Denver
Biggest impact: Mike Williams, Syracuse, picked in the fourth round, 101st overall by Tampa Bay, started 16 games and had 65 catches for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns.