Julio Jones better than this year's options

April, 24, 2012
4/24/12
12:47
PM ET
The NFL draft is two days way. In Atlanta, that means people are talking about last year’s draft.

That’s mostly because the Falcons are without a first-round pick after using it as part of a package to move up 21 spots to get receiver Julio Jones in last year’s draft. Atlanta doesn’t pick until the second round (No. 55 overall).

Lots of folks are moaning about the Jones trade now and talking about how it left the Falcons without a chance to get a player who can make an instant impact at left tackle or defensive end. I get those points.

I’d like to see the Falcons upgrade on Sam Baker at left tackle and I’d like to see them get a pass-rusher to go with John Abraham in this draft. None of that’s going to come in the first round and, even if the Falcons get a left tackle and a defensive end later in the draft, they won’t make an instant impact. But I’m not looking back regretfully at last year’s trade to get Jones.

If the Falcons hadn’t made the trade, they’d be picking No. 22 in this year’s draft.

Take a look at this mock draft done by the ESPN.com Blog Network on Monday and see if there is anybody who really excites you available at No. 22. I just did and I’m not seeing much. Georgia tackle Cordy Glenn went at No. 21 and some are projecting him as a guard. I’m a strong believer that you don’t take a guard in the first round and I’m not seeing any tackle I’d take in this scenario. I’d stick with Baker and add a guy who might be able to compete with him later in the draft or in free agency.

It’s kind of the same story at defensive end. Chandler Jones and Courtney Upshaw were taken after No. 22 and neither of those are guys who likely will make a huge instant impact. You can find a defensive end with as much potential in the second round.

The Falcons already got their impact player in this draft. It was Jones. Yeah, his rookie numbers weren’t off the charts, but they were very solid. Jones came up just a bit short of 1,000 receiving yards even though he missed three games with injuries. There were moments last season when Jones looked spectacular at a position where many rookies take several years to make a true impact.

I think Jones will only get better this year and new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter’s scheme will find more ways to get him the ball. Jones and Roddy White are close to being on even ground right now. As White ages, it’s only a matter of time before Jones becomes the true No. 1 receiver.

The Falcons got their impact player from this draft in last year’s draft. I gladly will take Jones over anything they could get at No. 22 in this year’s draft.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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