Jerry Rice, Julio Jones and dropped passes

Even the great Jerry Rice had problems with dropped passes while transitioning to the NFL from college.

I had forgotten, also, that Rice suffered a string of drops while transitioning from Joe Montana to Steve Young as his full-time quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers.

Rice worked through those issues, of course, on his way to becoming arguably the greatest player in NFL history.

GreenGreenJonesJonesThe perspective came in handy when running across Rice's analysis of A.J. Green and Julio Jones, the two highest-rated receivers in the 2011 NFL draft. Jones is seen more as a likely Top 10 or Top 15 prospect -- and a potential candidate for the St. Louis Rams with the 14th overall choice.

Rice, speaking recently on Sirius radio, pointed to Green's superior hands in explaining why he would favor the Georgia receiver to Jones, his Alabama counterpart. Rice's full comments, when asked which college wideout he would select first between the two:

"I would have to say A.J. Green because the guy, he makes plays. He makes plays and he doesn’t drop the ball as much and that’s part of Jones, what he’s going to have to work on. Julio Jones, he’s going to have to work on catching the football. So, maybe right now he’s that young pup right now, but once you get to that level, that next level, teams are not going to afford to let you drop footballs.

"That was something that Bill Walsh would always preach: 'If you drop footballs you’re not going to be with the San Francisco 49ers.' So, he’s very talented, but I think that phase of the game he’s going to have to work on. But Green right now, he gets the thumbs up right here."

I checked to see whether ESPN Stats & Information had logged dropped passes for college receivers this season. There were numbers for Jones because he played for a Top 25 program. There were no numbers for Green.

The chart compares Jones' numbers for targets, receptions and dropped passes against numbers for leading receivers in the NFC West this past season. The chart shows percentage of targets resulting in dropped passes, without knowing the quality of those targets. I've sorted the chart by most receptions per dropped pass.

Jones had more drops than any receiver on the list and the second-highest drop percentage, but his catch-to-drop ratio wasn't out of line.

2010 Stats: Dropping the Ball