Yes, there's a risk. And, yes, there's a risk with every player, but the risk with this player is greater because he's being projected at a position for which there is limited information on his ability to play it.
The Jaguars accepted those risks when they drafted Matt Jones with the 21st pick of last weekend's draft. Since then, we have consumed ourselves with the downside of this pick. What if he can't play wide receiver? What if he can't block well enough to play tight end? What if Jones turns out to be a player without a position?
Hey, those are the risks you take, right?
Now, let's consider another risk. Let's consider the risk associated with not having picked Jones.
Had the Jaguars decided to make a more conservative, safer pick, they would've passed on 6-6, 242 pounds of lightning speed and quickness and legendary athletic ability. Had the Jaguars decided Jones was too risky to pick in the first round, they would've accepted another and even greater and potentially more devastating risk. They would've accepted the risk of passing on greatness.
Ask yourself this: What if Jones turns out to be Michael Jordan? Do you want to be the team that passed on Michael Jordan?
What if Jones turns out to be Dan Marino? Do you want to be one of the teams that passed on Dan Marino? Twenty-six of them did. Some of them will never live it down. The Chiefs picked Todd Blackledge. The Patriots picked Tony Eason. The Jets picked Ken O'Brien. How do you pick those guys over Dan Marino? Because Marino was a risk. There were rumors about him.
All of a sudden, your gaffe is legendary. You know, the Steelers cut Johnny Unitas. How do you live that down?
So pick your risk. Do you risk picking a player you think will be great but turns out to be a bust? Or do you risk not picking a player you think will be great and, in fact, would've taken you to the Super Bowl?
Losing is not a risk in the NFL. It's a guarantee. All teams will spend time losing.
All teams, however, will not win. Winning is not guaranteed. All teams don't win the Super Bowl. Ask the Cleveland Browns, the Detroit Lions.
If you want to achieve greatness, you must be willing to do great things. The selection of Jones, provided he becomes a great player, will be hailed as one of those great things. It will bring praise to this franchise that it had the courage to do something great.
The flip side is shared by all teams. Ricky Williams embarrassed the Saints when they traded their entire draft class for him, then Williams embarrassed the Dolphins by quitting on the eve of training camp.
Look at every team's history. Find one team that doesn't have a first-round bust in its recent history. The Vikings have drafted as well as anybody over the last 10 years, but they also picked Dimitrius Underwood.
If you think you're above failure, you'll always be beneath success.
A lot of teams put second-round and third-round grades on Jones because that was their way of disciplining themselves not to take the risk. Those teams decided they wouldn't take a player making a position switch until the second or third rounds, and they made their grades on Jones reflect that decision.
The Jaguars didn't do that. They, clearly, fell in love with Jones. They saw things on tape that made their mouths water. They saw him run away from Carlos Rogers. They saw Jones dominate Eric Green, Corey Webster and Bryant McFadden in Senior Bowl practices. They saw Jones run past the Florida, Texas, LSU and Tennessee defenses as though they were frozen to the turf.
I know the Jaguars saw all of those things because I saw all of that on Thursday while watching a Jones highlight tape. I saw touchdown run after touchdown run after touchdown run. He was the most athletic player on the field in every example. Then, in the Senior Bowl portion of the highlight reel, he left top cornerback prospects to hang their heads following another pass reception.
The tape left even a terminal cynic such as me to wonder why any team would put a second-round or third-round grade on him. The answer, however, is simple and obvious. He's a risk, and risks make cowards of us all, until you consider the greatest of all risks: The risk of denying greatness.