NFL

Julio Jones vs Antonio Brown

Earlier yesterday Austin put out an editorial article that was so slanderous to one of football’s best wide receivers that I simply have to address it. The artist formally known as LackDaddy wrote a novel about how Antonio Brown is supposedly worlds better than Julio Jones. Let me tell you LackDaddy may just be lacking a few brain cells. We’re all for freedom of expression here at the blog, but I can’t have our readers thinking we’re morons. Antonio Brown has undeniably established himself as one the league’s preeminent receivers. His name has even been tossed around in the MVP conversation this year. But to even suggest he’s a more complete receiver than Julio is blasphemy. It’s wild that this isn’t even exactly an unpopular opinion. This tomfoolery needs to come to end once and for all. I’ll say it louder for the people in the cheap seats “JULIO JONES IS THE BEST OVERALL RECEIVER IN THE NFL”. Let’s break it down:

Measurables:

Julio Jones

Height
Weight
Arm Length
Hands
40 yd
20 SS
3 Cone
Vertical
Broad
BP
6’3 in
220 lb
33.75 in
9.75in
4.39
4.25
6.66
38.5 in
11 ft 3 in
17 reps

 

Antonio Brown

Height
Weight
Arm Length
Hands
40 yd
20 SS
3 Cone
Vertical
Broad
BP
5’10
181
31 in
9 in
4.56
4.18
6.98
33.5 in
8 ft 9in
13 reps

Credit to Austin, even he will admit that there is simply no contest between Brown and Jones in this regard. But I believe he is understating the importance of the discrepancy between the two in this category. Julio Jones is 6’3 and 220 pounds. Meanwhile Antonio Brown is 5’10 and 181 pounds. To put things in perspective Julio Jones is an Adonis with the ideal build of an NFL receiver, while Antonio Brown measures up almost identically to me, a blogger. I went undrafted yet again this year despite a solid 40 and great hands, but that’s neither here nor there. Despite his larger and stronger frame, Jones also dusted Brown in 40 yd dash. Jones clocked in at 4.39 at the combine, while Brown managed only a 4.56 (contrary to Austin’s report of a 4.47, don’t trust Wikipedia kids). This is no minor differential. Jones’s speed places him in the 95th percentile of NFL receivers. Not to mention, Jones had a broken foot at the combine. In comparison, Brown’s time puts him in the 43rd percentile (below average for those of you who are mathematically challenged). So not only is Julio much bigger and stronger than Antonio, he is also significantly faster. To be fair, speed and strength aren’t the only things that matter in the receiving game. Catch radius as well as the ability to go up and get 50/50 balls are an integral parts of the position. Luckily for Julio Jones, he boasts a 38.5 inch vertical and 33.75 inch long arms. Brown on the other hand has only a 33.5 in vertical and 31 inch long arms. In terms of both catch radius and leaping ability there is no comparison. Now I know what Austin is going say, “But Jim, you’re forgetting Antonio Brown is more agile, he’s shiftier”. That might be a legitimate argument, were it not fact that Jones also beat Brown in the 3 cone drill. So to recap, you’re telling me that in the position the requires the most athleticism in the sport (along with cornerback), Julio Jones is significantly better than Antonio Brown in every tangible measure of the trait? You don’t need to be a force in the sports blogging world like me to figure it out that the difference is both glaring and vastly important. There’s a reason one was drafted in the first round out Alabama and the other was taken in the 6th round out of Central Michigan. If you’re building the perfect receiver in a lab, it’s Julio Jones, not Antonio Brown.

Production:

In his blog Austin talked about Antonio Brown was more consistent. If that was true then why why has Julio Jones averaged more yards per game than Antonio every single season in the league.  It is true that Brown has been clearly more prolific in terms of touchdowns. It Is also true that his red zone target share was double that of Jones’s. Last year Brown saw an outlandish 25.9% red zone target share compared to that of 11.8% for Jones. Overall Brown was targeted 25 more times than Jones (154 to 129), compiling a 9.6 targets per game average compared to Julio’s 8.1 average. Brown also has significant advantage in terms the design of the offense he plays in. The Steelers wide receiver decisively outpaces Jones in terms of snap share and number of team pass plays.  Nevertheless, Jones racked up more yards in each of the last 2 seasons. The only years Brown has outgained Jones were those in which Julio did not play a full season. Yet, perhaps the most telling statistic illustrative of Jones’s greatness was his contested catch rate of 90.9%. Compare that to 54.7% and there’s no need to even bother reading the rest of the blog. Another percentage in favor of Jones is his rat of success against one on one coverage. Jones also has a far greater percentage of his team’s total air yards. The only measure that favors Brown is his number receptions. This discrepancy is easily explainable by the frequency in which Brown lines up in the slot. In pretty much every other advanced metric, Julio has been consistently outperforming Antonio. The fact of the matter is that despite a significant difference in their levels and types of usage, when Julio Jones is on the field, he is better than Antonio Brown.

Julio Jones

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 1.06.57 PM.png

Antonio Brown

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 1.07.16 PM.png

Situation:

The supporting cast debate is another important factor of the debate, and another facet in which LackDaddy’s analysis was simply erroneous. His key argument here was that Sure Matt Ryan has passed for more yards than Ben Roethlisberger a number of times in his career. Let’s disregard the fact Roethlisberger routinely misses 3-4 games with injury. What lackdady won’t tell you is that Big Ben has achieved or been on pace for 4000+ yards each of the past 7 years as well. Get ready for the kill shot: Big Ben has averaged more passing yards per game in 7 out of the 10 seasons both QBs have been in the league. I know what some of you are thinking, “Jim stop this carnage lackdaddy has a family.” But when you come at the SEC, the only acceptable punishment is vicious murder. Take a look at the attempts portion of that chart would you. Ryan has heavily outnumbered Roethlisberger in passing attempts every year since 2010. Furthermore, what does it matter if none of those passes aren’t going to Julio Jones as much as they’re going to Brown? We have already covered that Brown has a decisive advantage in overall targets and target share, despite the fact the Brown plays with a more established receiving core. Speaking of playing with a better receiving core, Brown faces less double teams because of the threat of Martavis Bryant and Juju Smith Schuster. Jones statically performs better than brown on the rare occasions he does have single coverage. Lest we forget the Falcons have missed the playoffs more often than not, meanwhile the Steelers are perennial contenders to reach the AFC Championship game.  Big Ben wins super bowls, Matt Ryan blows them. Beyond supporting cast, look at the laundry list of receivers Big Ben has helped make a name for: Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress, Antoine Randle El, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders. Virtually all of the players on this list that left the Steelers went on to pedestrian careers. Yet they were pro bowl caliber players with Roethlisberger throwing to them. Ask yourself: is it more likely that the Steelers have had the most unprecedented run of receiving talent in NFL history, or is it simply that wideouts put up big numbers as a result of Big Ben and the Steeler’s offensive system. The only receiver besides Plax to have any real success after leaving the Steeler was Emmanuel Sanders: who played with some bum named Peyton Manning.  None of this is meant as a slight to Brown. I’m simply pointing out that receivers always put up numbers in the Steeler’s system. In a career year for Brown this season, rookie Juju Smith Schuster is also on pace for 800+ yards seasons (Bryant also had 765 yards in 11 games the year prior). Hmmm, makes you wonder doesn’t it? So go ahead, sign Antonio Brown, or trade for him, just don’t come crying to me when his number suddenly dip after he leaves like all of the others.

Ben Roethlisberger

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 12.47.21 PM.png

Matt Ryan

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 12.47.06 PM.png

Final Verdict:

When all is said, a general manager assembling a team from scratch would not pick Brown over Jones. That should tell you all you need to know about their evaluations. Nevermind the fact that Jones was voted the third best player in the league and best wide receiver by his peers at the beginning of the season. The casual fan loves Browns numbers, but those in the know recognize Julio Jones incontrovertible value. Moreover, advanced metrics paint a more objective picture of their numbers, independent of their situations. Even in we forget advanced statistics, Julio has amassed more yards per game every season they’ve been in the league. This isn’t a matter of one being more talented out-producing him. Julio has the physical tools to succeed regardless of the situation or scheme he plays in and the production to match. With Brown, things are less certain. There’s a reason why Jones posted similar numbers in the SEC to ones Brown produced in the MAC. In a vacuum, he’s just more talented, plain and simple.  If I’m crafting a team, the top 5 receivers on my board would be some amalgamation of the following:

Julio Jones
Antonio Brown
Deandre Hopkins
Odell Beckham
AJ Green

But make no mistake, Julio is on top!

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