Draft Spotlight: Julio Jones

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In this installment of our "Draft Spotlight" series, learn more about a talented Alabama wide receiver who had one of the best all-around performances at this year's combine.**
It happens every year at the NFL Scouting Combine. Somebody puts on a did-he-really-just-do-that type of performance that leaves scouts and media members completely awestruck.

This year, that person was Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. The numbers were ridiculous: 4.39 in the 40-yard dash, a 38½-inch vertical, 11'3" in the broad jump.

Oh, and he put up those numbers despite a broken foot.

Jones' injury-plagued performance at the NFL's annual track meet/job interview all but solidified his position as one of the top two wide receivers in this year's draft.

But Jones didn't go about his business the way most wideouts do. He wasn't flashy. He didn't seek any extra attention. And he wasn't proclaiming himself to be the best player in Indianapolis.

In fact, when asked to make the case why he should be selected over Georgia's A.J. Green as the first receiver taken in April's draft, Jones steered clear of any self promotion.

"I'm not going to say that (I should be the first wide receiver selected). A.J. is a great receiver," he said. "We work together. I like the guy as a person, a friend, everything.

"Whoever takes either one of us is going to get a great receiver."

Jones was right on that last part.

In three years with the Crimson Tide, he totaled 179 receptions for 2,653 yards and 15 touchdowns. His junior year alone he caught 78 passes for 1,133 yards – and that was in just 12 games. His best performance last season came against Tennessee when he hauled in 12 receptions for 221 yards.

Still, entering the combine there were questions about Jones' hands and the nagging injuries he battled throughout his college career.

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He said his hands have never been an issue and that he just tried to play too fast sometimes. As for the injuries, Jones proved at the combine he can play through almost any amount of pain.

But that's what you'd expect from one of the most physical players in college football.

Standing nearly 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Jones likes mixing it up with his opponents. And when asked which current NFL player he models his game after, the first name Jones mentioned was Baltimore Ravens' All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis.

"I have a defensive mentality," he explained. "I'm not scared to hit. I'm a physical guy. I look for that. I like to hit defensive players because they're not used to getting hit. They're used to hitting offensive players and getting them out of their comfort zone. So when I hit them, I try to get them out of their comfort zone."

As far as Jones' comfort zone, he's fine with any type of offense. He flourished at Alabama in a typical two-back, pro-style system. And in high school, he became the top player in the country while catching passes in the West Coast offense.

While the type of offense has changed, the biggest constant throughout his career has been challenge. Jones played his high school ball in the always-competitive state of Alabama, and when he took it to the next level he had to face the staunch defenses of the SEC.

But now the biggest challenge for Jones will be getting healthy before the NFL Draft. Dr. Bob Anderson, a noted orthopedic surgeon, successfully placed a screw in his broken foot last week. The type of surgery typically takes six to eight weeks recovery time, but Jones' agents believe their client will be ready to perform the day he is drafted.

That day is still nearly two months away, and between now and then there will be talk about Jones' amazing combine performance and speculation about how much better it could have been with two healthy feet.

Still though, ridiculous combine numbers don't make you a good football player. If you can't translate that athleticism onto the field then even a world-record 40-time wouldn't matter.

But there's no question that Jones' skills do translate. Just ask Patrick Peterson.

The LSU product is the consensus-No. 1 cornerback in the upcoming draft, and he prides himself on locking down the best wide receivers in the game.

It's hard to remember Peterson giving up any touchdowns last season, but when he was asked at the combine at the combine how many scores he gave up in 2010, Peterson gritted his teeth and told the truth.

"One," he said. "Julio Jones."

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