Written by: Joe Carlino @joecarlino14
It’s no secret that Atlanta Falcons star wide receiver Julio Jones is one of, if not the best, the primary receiver in the game today. Consistently regarded as the “prototype” build at 6’3”, 220 lbs., the man has done something, not even the great Jerry Rice has accomplished: five straight seasons of at least 1,400 yards receiving.
But what really stands out for Jones, in most Falcons fans minds, is his ability to be a natural-born leader.
Jones is constantly compared with the likes of Raiders receiver Antonio Brown, Browns receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., and more recently, Deandre Hopkins of the Houston Texans. That said, let’s compare these other elite receivers and why Jones is better than his colleagues.
Let’s start with Brown, who has been all sorts of headcases since he exploded on the scene. Recently, it was reported that he’s threatening to retire from the NFL over the usage of a helmet model which has since been banned due to NFL/NFLPA guidelines prohibiting its usage if it’s not certified by NOCSAE. Not only that, but he also suffered frostbite due to mishaps in a cryogenic chamber in France. And finally, the real kicker: he truly violated the sanctity of the locker room by broadcasting a postgame speech by Mike Tomlin on Facebook Live. Despite being a fifth-round selection, Brown has always lacked that sense of leadership as a teammate, something Jones isn’t by any stretch of the imagination.
Then there’s Odell, who is a great receiver in his own right but has struggled recently with some very unfortunate season-ending injuries to his lower body. However, Beckham has, in recent years, been two things along with with his productivity: a viral star from his incredible one-handed snag on Sunday night in 2014 and an individual who seems to be focused on everything other than football. The trade to Cleveland was surprising, yes, but maybe now Odell can truly become that sort of leader Julio is(he already ditched the blonde hair, so that’s a start).
Because of this, it’s clear that in the wide receiver room, Julio is the de facto example of a true leader. Take what just transpired in Miami during Week One (technically the Falcons’ second preseason game due to participation in HOF game against Denver) of the 2019 NFL preseason. Jones had already made it clear that he wasn’t going to play in any preseason games, owing to veteran presence, ensuring 100% health when the regular season begins, and his original mindset of getting all his reps during practice. Jones could’ve easily stayed behind in Atlanta and nobody would’ve batted an eye. Instead, he did not only go to Miami, but he worked with the receivers during pregame, even going so far as to coach them on how to properly work on their cuts to ensure easier levels of separation from a defender.
Really, in today’s NFL, the fairest comparison to Jones of the three aforementioned players is Hopkins because their mindsets are roughly one of the same. They aren’t out there to be divas or make headlines because of off-field antics. Rather, they’re out there because it’s their job to be, and they strive to consistently improve week in and week out, also making sure those around them are improving and learning how they can get better. Hopkins has also entered the conversation based on last year, when he did something not even Julio can boast: catching every single target he received last season without dropping one.
Of course, Julio’s still better than all of them. But Hopkins is the closest in terms of mindset. For me, the top five rankings of wide receivers from a leadership perspective are:
1. Julio Jones
2. DeAndre Hopkins
3. AJ Green
4. Mike Evans
5. Michael Thomas