In the 2011 NFL draft, the Atlanta Falcons were slotted to pick at 27th overall in the first round, but Atlanta ended up swapping with the Cleveland Browns all the way up for the sixth overall spot instead. Atlanta would go on to select wide receiver Julio Jones out of Alabama.
“I will say in those early years I was a little more aggressive and not thinking about the repercussions as much,” Dimitroff began to explain. “Would I have made the Julio Jones move? I made it and we made it in 2011. Would I have done it in 2017, ’18, ’19? I would never do it any differently and he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer––obviously great at what he does. And I don’t look back on it in any way, but we did it then in the earlier part of our career I think. Now, I have always said it was right for the organization back then back in ’11 because we did it when we were in a certain spot. We were young in a lot of ways. It wouldn’t have been right for us to do it in ’17, ’18, and ’19.
It has everything to do with where we were with the cap, where we were with the roster, so where we were with the evolution of our players––the youth versus the age on the team. It was just, to me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime move.”
In return, the Falcons gave up their 2011 first-round pick along with their second and fourth-round picks that year to the Browns. They also gave up their first and fourth-round picks in the 2012 draft.
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Did the Falcons Give Up Too Much for Julio Jones?
The Falcons gave up five picks for a wide receiver, which is usually frowned upon unless they’re a quarterback.
At the time, the Browns were in a re-building stage and would go on to use those picks on defensive lineman Phil Taylor, fullback Owen Marecic, and quarterback Brandon Weeden. Then, they used the 2012 picks to trade up for Trent Richardson. None of these players made an impact on the franchise.
Julio Jones, however, would go onto become a 2x All-Pro wideout with seven Pro Bowl invites. To date, Jones has 848 catches for 12,896 yards and 60 touchdowns. He also took Jerry Rice’s record in 2019 in receiving yards, having 12,000 in less than 17 games.
The Falcons got a quality player in Jones, but Jones alone can’t win games for Atlanta––trading up 21 spots for a quarterback could have been a different story.
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The Falcons are Open to Trading Up or Down in This Year’s Draft
Atlanta currently holds a top 5 draft pick for the first time since taking Matt Ryan at No. 3 overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. This year, they’ll pick at No. 4 overall, and Falcons’ new GM Terry Fontenot said the franchise is open to “all possibilities.”
“There are so many different scenarios,” Fontenot said via AtlantaFalcons.com. “There are going to be some really good players there at No. 4. We can move up, and we can move down and acquire more picks. There’s just a lot of different scenarios to really go through. It’s a prime spot to be in. It’s not somewhere that we want to be in very often with this team, but we are going to take advantage of that and be open to all possibilities.”
The Falcons really have no reason to trade up from their No. 4 slot, but trading back a few spots could benefit them since plenty of QB talent will still be on the board well past the top 10.
There is not a clear path that the Falcons will take that we know of yet, but we’ll see what they do come April 29th.