Julio Jones and A.J. Green were the top two receivers nationally in the 2008 signing class, with Jones choosing Alabama and Green picking Georgia.
They're now the top two receiving prospects in the 2011 NFL draft according to ESPN analyst Mel Kiper, though there has been a switch.
"A.J. Green has just been more consistent, while Julio Jones dropped some balls and was a durability issue as well," Kiper said Wednesday. "I just thought Green was the better player. It's interesting, because when they came out of high school, Jones was a little ahead of Green. Now Green is a little ahead of Jones."
Jones was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 4 recruit overall three years ago in a class headed by Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, while Green was No. 9. Kiper rates the 6-foot-4, 212-pound Green as the third best prospect in the draft and has the 6-4, 220-pound Jones 10th on his list.
Kiper projects Green going sixth overall to the Cleveland Browns, where he could be reunited with former Bulldogs receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, and has Jones going 14th to the St. Louis Rams.
"We came in together, so everybody has always kind of compared us," Green said this past season. "I really don't know him that well, but I've followed him along with the other great receivers in the SEC."
Comparisons may only intensify in the weeks leading up to the draft, which will be held April 28-30, as Green and Jones are clearly out front at their position. Kiper said Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon would have been a late first-round selection and Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles an early second-round pick had the two premier Big 12 wideouts made themselves eligible for the draft.
Green and Jones lived up to the hype as freshmen, with Green catching 56 passes for 963 yards and eight touchdowns and Jones amassing 58 receptions for 924 yards and four scores. They had injury issues as sophomores which led to a dip in productivity -- Green catching 53 passes for 808 yards and six touchdowns and Jones 43 for 596 and four scores.
Jones had 78 catches for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns this past season, while Green was suspended the first four games for selling his 2009 Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000 yet rebounded to snag 57 catches for 848 yards and nine scores.
"He had the four-game suspension at the beginning of the year, and if you remember, they were 1-3, and their only win without him was against Louisiana-Lafayette," Kiper said. "When he came back, they automatically picked up the pace and started winning some games. Here is an angular kid who beats you vertically and is a great route runner and made some tough catches in traffic and took hits and didn't give up the football.
"I don't really see any major hole in his game. With Jones, there is a consistency issue catching the ball, and there is a little bit of that injury issue. The minor nicks and stuff that he had at Alabama makes you wonder about a 16-game schedule."
Kiper believes former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, who was 24-3 as the Crimson Tide starter, probably will not get drafted. McElroy finished fourth nationally in efficiency as a senior, completing 222 of 313 passes (70.9 percent) for 2,987 yards with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions.
"He's the consummate winner and has all the intangibles you would want," he said. "Arm strength and mobility are the issues. He doesn't have a big-league arm, and he's not a real mobile guy."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...