Green Bay Packers WR Status: Jordy Nelson > James Jones???

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Jordy Nelson will have a longer and better career as an NFL wide receiver than James Jones. There – let’s just get that out of the way. I have nothing against James Jones, and his hard-luck personal story makes me want to root for him, but I just don’t think he will ever be more than a good NFL receiver. I believe Jordy Nelson, however, has the extras that could propel him to be a quasi-star in the NFL.

Back in early June, I decided I would tell the world why I feel this way. Before I could put fingers to keyboard, however, a host of articles about Jones and Nelson hit the internet. The Green Bay Press Gazette, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Packers.com, TotalPackers.com, bleacherreport.com and probably many more that I just don’t remember, all wrote on the topic.

Talk about overload – who needed yet another article on the subject?  So I shelved the idea. This weekend, however, Alex Tallitsch of the Packers Lounge (now part of CheeseheadTV), published a collection of fan polls. One of them, of course, was “Jordy Nelson or James Jones?” Alex, a firm member of the “Jones is better” camp, was really surprised that Nelson was leading the poll result by a margin of 3:2.

So I decided to give this a shot anyway. If you’re tired of the debate, I apologize in advance, but perhaps I can present a good enough case for you Nelson non-believers.

Many have dubbed this the battle for the #3 receiver spot. Right off the bat, I have a problem with that. If you count JerMichael Finley, the spot Nelson and Jones are competing for is much more likely to be the 4th on the list of passing game targets. And for those of you assuming Donald Driver will be taking a step back due to his age and slight production drop-off the last few seasons, think again.

Driver had surgery on both knees in January and both he and the trainers say he is a “new man.” The last few seasons he has been running on damaged knees. Prepare for a Donald Driver resurgence.

So the point I am making is that this battle is really not that critical to the Packers, and that for at least this year, neither Nelson or Jones will be putting up big numbers. But who most has the potential to do so in the future? Jordy Nelson.

Since none of us can predict the future, lets take a look back at their pasts and do a little comparison.

College Career:

Jordy Nelson: Kansas State (BIG-12): A former HS quarterback, that still holds a Kansas State Track Sprint Record, Nelson came to KSU as a safety and was moved to wide receiver as a sophomore. Over 31 college games, Nelson caught 206 passes for 2824 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was a first team All-America as a senior, second in the nation in catches (122) and yards (1606).

Scouting report: Shows good flexibility extending for the ball in a crowd and has those large, soft hands that lets him catch most of the throws outside his frame … Would not call him sudden, but does have competitive quickness in his routes… Big target who is productive on impact working over the middle … Shows the ability to screen the defender and has outstanding ball concentration, appearing very confident he can get to most throws in a crowd … While he lacks the strength to blow up defenders as a blocker, he will position to pester and stalk … Will not hesitate to sacrifice his body and lay out for the ball.
Better served playing in the slot than on the outside, as he has the frame to shield the ball from defenders and make the tough catch in a crowd, but does not have the timed speed to stretch the field.

James Jones: San Jose State (WAC): Also a HS quarterback and basketball player, Jones went to hometown San Jose State and was a part-time starter until his Senior Season. Over 44 college games, James caught 126 passes for 1496 yards and 12 touchdowns

Scouting report: Solidly built athlete with a lean, yet defined frame, showing good upper body muscle definition, long arms and large, soft hands … Lacks explosion off the snap, but does a good job of accelerating throughout his route … Runs with good balance and shows above average hand/eye coordination … Can make the tough catches in traffic and then run around defenders with the ball … Has a smooth, gliding running motion, but does not generate an explosive pull-away burst … Lacks great timed speed or a second gear to separate … Tends to look lackadaisical going for the ball at times … Needs to develop better shake moves to escape defenders at the line … Rounds his cuts and is has had ball concentration lapses, as he needs to be more conscious of securing the ball before running with it … Lacks a separation burst and needs to develop better moves to sell the route and surprise the defensive back … For his size, he seems too passive when it comes to blocking, lacking the ability (or desire) to sustain and finish his blocks …

NFL combine:

Jordy Nelson:    40-time:     4.51, vertical: 31″, 20yard: 2.59, 10yard: 1.50, Broad jump: 10’03”, Shuttle: 4.35 Cone: 7.03

James Jones:    40-time: 4.54, vertical: 34″, 20yard: 2.65, 10yard: 1.54, Broad jump: 09’11”, Shuttle: 4.20 Cone: 7.06

Pro Career:

Jordy Nelson:    Over 29 games, Nelson caught 55 passes for 685 yards (12.5 yd avg.) and four touchdowns. He also had 36 kickoff returns for 843 yards and 17 punt returns for 90 yards.

James Jones:    Over 42 games, James caught 99 passes for 1390 yards (14yd avg.) and 8 touchdowns

Evaluation:

Looking at the above evidence, if I’m being honest, it’s closer than I expected.  Jordy’s main advantage is in the College Career category. Playing against better competition in the big 12, Nelson had 6 10-catch games in his senior season. He was the go-to guy in the KSU offense and was not bothered by the pressure. His senior season almost equaled all of Jone’s college career.

Looking at the College highlights videos, I saw what I expected from Nelson, but was very surprised by Jones’ video. In that video he looks a lot more fluid than he ever has as a Packer, even showing moves after the catch. Not what I expected. Nelson shows much softer hands, with an excellent ability to catch the ball away from his body.

The draft scouting reports show both Nelson and Jones as lacking that burst to separate from defenders, but both able to make the tough catch in traffic.

The NFL combine numbers give Nelson a slight edge, but not anything to brag about. Neither were near the top of their WR group in most categories, with the only exception being Jones just cracking the top 10 in the cone drill.

As for their NFL numbers, it’s hard to draw any concrete conclusions. Jones had the surprisingly productive rookie season when the Packers went 13-3, but hasn’t looked as good since, especially after his knee injury in the 2008 season. Watching Jones run after the catch last season, sometimes it seemed to me like he was carrying a medicine ball as he ran – he just seemed to be laboring. I specifically remember shouting “RUN” at Jones on several occasions last season.

Nelson, on the other hand, did a great job with picking up extra yards after the catch. My only criticism there would be that I think he has dropped a few balls  because he was in too much of a hurry to run with the ball. If he can focus totally on the catch first, I think he has excellent after-catch ability. Nelson raised his average last year to 14 yds.per catch from 11 his rookie season. Hopefully a pattern that continues.

Jones’ route-running, while improved, is still not up to par with Nelson’s. Jordy is just much crisper with his routes, where Jones will tend to round off his cuts.

Another area where Nelson has a definite advantage is down field blocking. Nelson is an eager down field blocker, often seen coming totally across the field to deliver a block on a big play (I’m thinking of the Greg Jennings TD catch vs SF). Jones has not proven to be useful in this department at all.

Finally, Nelson’s contributions as a return man increases his edge over Jones. While punt returns are not his strength, at least he handles the ball securely and his kickoff return performance was better than average.

So where does all this leave me? Truthfully, not where I thought I’d be. I really expected to be be able to make a drop-dead case for Jordy Nelson as the far superior player of the two. While I still believe that Nelson will one day emerge as a favorite target of Aaron Rodgers (more reliable route running and comes back to the ball better), it’s no sure thing he’ll be that much better than Jones. More well rounded, for sure, but Jones has almost as good a chance at the equivalent NFL receiving career.

Damn. I hate when I can’t manipulate the facts to prove my point…

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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  • http://purplepantsgreenjersey.com Max

    What strikes me about Jordy Nelson in that video is how well he ran on the turf. Maybe the games we play in New York/New Jersey, Detroit, Minnesota, etc. will be the places where Jordy will shine.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Easier to make fast cuts on turf, so it probably helps give him a little extra burst…

  • jeremiah

    here is how i define the two. jordy nelson has a better chance to become an above average reciever than james jones has a chance to become a stud reciever…if that makes sense.

    nelson has the tools to become a very good posession guy, but lacks the explosiveness to become a dominant WR.

    jones (in his rookie year) showed glimpses of being able to give opposing defenses fits. but hen it all fell apart after he fumbled like 42 times against chicago.

    all in all, in the bet for who will have a better career i will take nelson for his solid and steady(for the most part) productivity.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Well, i don’t know how you define “stud” receiver, so I can’t see I really follow what you said. if you define stud as “star”, then I get it and agree.

  • Mr. Bacon

    I just find it funny that the Packers fans are squabling over who is the better #4 receiver.

    Jay Cutler wishes he had a #1 at least, while we are nitpicking to good receivers, who could be #1’s on a bad team.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      haha. haven’t seen you in awhile. Good to see you’re still sizzlin…

      • Mr. Bacon

        Just the offseason bud.

        The Packers are going about their usuall way. Proboly the only story relevent to Packers as of now, is the flavor of Gatorade they will use this season.

        Everything else is just smooth sailing.

        • PackersRS

          As long as it’s not grapes, I’m happy… Kinda have a problem with orange, too.

  • Yoop

    Al you have to look at it this way, it’s a nice problem to have for the Packers. How many teams have this kind of depth at the WR position.
    I was accused by the TP posters of having a man crush on Nelson, I had posted so much about him and had them taking him in every mock I did.
    Both Jones and Nelson bring things that work well in the offense.
    I think Nelson has the ability to much better then most think.
    He is prototypical WR for this offense as outlined by Bill Walsh.
    Nelsons size and route running area great fit.
    I can’t wait to see Nelson and Jones fight it out this training camp and pre season.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      I agree with you on Nelson and have also felt that way since the draft. This is his 3rd year, so the time is ripe, but he’s just not going to get the chances. His time will have to wait…

  • Asshalo

    They could both be productive Packers for several years to come.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      And they most likely will be. I just think that if Nelson were given a starting job (in GB or elsewhere), he would shine.

  • PackersRS

    I just think, with the way this offense is ran, whoever gets open gets the ball. I understand about reads, but if Jones or Nelson are considered true #2 receivers, aligning them against #3 and #4 cbs will provide consisntant matchup problems. They need to beat their lesser opponent and get open more often, hold onto the ball more often, and make more plays after the catch.

    I get the opportunities thing, but it’s up to them to make the most of the opportunities and win the job. Jennings plain stole Robert Ferguson’s job in 06. Jordy or Nelson should do the same to a 35 year old DD.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Donald Driver is not Robert Ferguson…

      • PackersRS

        Never said he was, and a 35 DD is miles better than Ferguson in his prime. But Jennings, though a superb talent, was a rookie coming from a small school. He went onto leading all receivers in yards during preseason, which got him the starting spot.

        Cmon people, what’s with you and not geting the context?

        I see it like this: if either Jordy or Jones are given the job (a.k.a. Driver can’t perform), we’re screwed. If they’re indeed the future #2 Wr, they should contend for it, rather than just be good enough to be handed the job.

        They probably will never be as good as Driver, but I expect them to play as well as Freeman did.

    • Taryn

      Packers RS you made me JUMP!!!The way the Packers play is whoever gets open gets the ball???Playground offense?LOL
      What will decide the faith of Jordy and James is who will be the surer outlet receiver.DD has a route as does Jennings and may I add PLANNED.The others are planned also but with a diffrent purpose.
      As for the article I believe Jordy gets it for his edge cut,agility,concentration and drive for the spot.

      • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

        I would agree that Nelson is the surer target for Rodgers. I.e., most likely to be where he’s supposed to be.

      • PackersRS

        Context my friend. Cmon, I didn’t want to write an article, but at least get the point. It’s obvious that it’s not like I wrote, it’s not pee wee football and I expected someone like you to understand it, but the offense doesn’t revolve around a go-to-guy. The #1 read isn’t always DD or Jennings, or Finley. Sure, Rodgers will look more for those 3, because they’re the most likely to have run the route and get the ball, but getting open IS a fact. Finding the spot in the zone and beating the man coverage are examples of getting open. It’s not mechanic, 1/3 of the time the designed routes won’t work for that D, and you’ll depend on the ability of the receiver to beat it. http://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/final-point-defense. Look at the video. What makes the play work isn’t the superb design, but rather the quick diagnostic of Hines Ward, coming back for the ball, but not far enough so he misses the first down. That’s what I’m talking about.

  • http://greenbaypackernation.com John Rehor

    I have said for a while that Jones has the chance to step up and make a significant impact this season. I think back to his 07 season when he was a rookie, and he was solid if not spectacular. After his injury marred 08, he rebounded with a solid 09.

    What I dont like about Nelson is that he did not make the most of his opportunity when Jones was injured in 08 and did not make any significant improvement last season. On paper, Nelson looks to have the better potential, but can’t seem to overtake Jones for #3.

    Ideally, a combo of Nelson and Jones makes sense, especially for this offense. Adding a 4th target for Rodgers to throw to could rack up some serious yardage and add another dimension to the passing game. In the long run though, I think Jones will have the better pro career…but not by much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tisdels-Tirades/128720290477889?ref=ts Andy Tisdel

    I kind of think back to Nelson’s rookie year, when he didn’t drop a single pass. How many rookies can pull that off?

    The knock on Jones, to me, is he seems to play soft. Like the scouting report says, he’s extremely strong in the upper body for a wideout, but he doesn’t fight for extra yards or knock ‘em out blocking like a Donald Driver does. I wonder if the contract year could provide some extra impetus for him to start playing more physically?

    • Taryn

      Andy
      That last sentence to me justifies reasons for Jordy over Jones.
      I know players want money and it motivates some to give more,but how do you give more money to a player who doesn’t seem MOTIVATED.
      I would implore the Packers to be very stingy when it comes to the “Garanteed” part of a knew contract with Jones.Jordy has proved his mettle already and looks to do more,Jones seems to be possibly “just looking for money”.
      Already doing what FA’s do and he isn’t YET.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Nelson is all-out all the time. I don’t get that feeling from Jones.

  • Taryn

    Oh I forgot to mention that while Jordy was honing his ability to get a WR spot he was doing RET’s also.What was Jones doing other than not making a stronger push than Jordy for the spot,as he only played WR and the numbers on both side for Jordy.

  • Taryn

    Allow me to say something and then the context in which it is taken is open.

    Taking down an Institution like DD is not easy for the so called next in line or the coaching staff for that matter.We are not talking Jennings and Ferguson but,Driver and Nelson and yes I said NELSON.

    This debate of Nelson or Jones has already been settled by what Nelson was assigned and what Jones wasn’t.Jones needed to concentrate on 1 position and couldn’t make Nelson dissappear.

    This is the same thing between Favre and Rodgers and one of many deciding factor(s) going with Rodgers was that INT and the flipping of the retirement crap again.The ORG had enough and made the change.The same thing will happen with DD and not until DD fails or is injured.Nelson isn’t taking anything away from DD as Rodgers wasn’t taking it from Favre.Nelson is 3rd and will be no matter how much he does until then.

    Some or saying Jordy will only be a good #2 and I feel otherwise of that false belief.Is that to mean he should after 3 years be in position to not only bump DD but Jennings also.Alot to ask or expect from 1 guy and yet defend another who hasn’t stepped up half as much.

    It’s not easy to sit an Institution and maybe harder to just acknowledge it.ALA Favre.A bold thing to do but I would expect it early this season.

    PackerRS,no offense but Nelson is the guy who can do what Ward did,when the routes breakdown he’s there.The question should be,”when DD goes down or can’t cut it and Nelson moves to #2 is Jones really a true #3?

    Jones is the one who will be given something,while Nelson is taking and is EARNING it but, won’t get it until that faithful last day for DD.

    • http://packershalloffame.com Carrie

      Jordy all the way!

  • http://jonbobs.blogspot.com JonBob

    I’m not picking a side on this debate…yet. Let’s see what happens in camp and preseason…and maybe the first few games of the season…and maybe after DD retires…if he ever does.

  • johnny joice

    as a relative of James I am insulted about the rumors of my nephew being homeless. There were inappropriate decisions made by the indiduales that raised him!

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      So what is the real story then?

  • johnny joice

    My sister place them into apartments and provided funds for them. My sister also obtained his mother a job at HP and she was fired ! They also moved into my sisters home.

  • http://packershalloffame.com Carrie

    Why isn’t my comment showing up?

  • http://phlog.net/users/88south/entries/771517 Repetitive Strain Injuries

    Magnificent issues altogether, you just gained a new reader. What may you suggest about your publish that you made some days ago? Any positive?