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Spotlight: A.J. Green

posted by Cecil Lammey on Jul 25th


Cecil Lammey's thoughts

A.J. Green could be the next superstar receiver to take the league by storm. Some in the scouting community believe he can become a star quickly like Randy Moss did years ago for the Vikings. While in college at Georgia he won multiple awards even though he missed seven games over the past two years due to injury or suspension. He was quick to make an impact at Georgia and dominated the SEC as a redshirt freshman. Green became the focus of the offense in 2009 but saw his production drop due to three missed games because of a chest bruise and shoulder sprain. He was set to make a comeback in 2010 but was suspended for the first four games of the season. Green responded by posting a career high 96 yards per game receiving and caught 9 touchdowns.

Green has everything you want in a wide receiver. He's big, fast, and can make difficult catches seem routine. His speed helps him get on top of a defense in a hurry and he makes for a great deep threat. He has good ball tracking ability and knows how to find passes in the air and run under them in stride. Green is not a one-dimensional receiver and is not afraid to run routes over the middle. He has intense concentration and can haul in catches with defenders draped all over him. His leaping ability makes him a good threat in the red zone and he should see many jump passes thrown his way.

He can become frustrated by physical coverage from aggressive cornerbacks. Green is a fierce competitor and doesn't back down from a challenge. However, he needs better mental focus when passes aren't coming his way because of tight coverage. Last season he was defended well by Colorado's Jimmy Smith, who ended up being a first-round pick for the Ravens this year. Green will be the focal point of the Bengals passing game and needs to show the ability to beat press and double coverage consistently at the NFL level.

The Bengals are moving in a different direction in 2011, and they see Green as a key piece to their long-term success. He was a top 5 draft pick because of his physical ability and potential to take over games as a pro. Both Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco should be playing elsewhere in 2011. Long time QB Carson Palmer is either going to be traded or forced into retirement. Cincinnati selected Andy Dalton to be their QB of the future in the second-round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Dalton should learn that his best chance for success is to get the football to Green early and often.

Green has the potential to be a superstar but will he make the most of his skill set? His current ADP is WR31 and he should be able to outproduce that mark. He may not finish as a top 15 fantasy WR this year, but breaking into the top 25 shouldn't be a problem - especially in PPR leagues. Let's take a closer look at A.J. Green to examine this superstar on the rise.

Questions about A.J. entering the 2011 season:

How quickly can he make an impact as a rookie?
There are some who feel the lockout will prevent rookies from making much (if any) of an impact early this season. Those concerns are quite overblown. Green's impact should be felt from week one. He has superstar ability and should prove difficult to cover for opponents. Cincinnati's new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is installing a West Coast offense which will rely on quick reads, quick routes, and quick passes. This system will get the ball into the hands of Green quickly, allowing for him to use his speed and run after the catch ability to gain yards after the catch. I expect him to lead the team in catches this season.

Will he be held back by rookie QB Andy Dalton?
Dalton doesn't have a rocket arm like a young Carson Palmer used to. Green is a fantastic deep threat, but it will prove difficult for Dalton to hit him on long bomb passes. In this system there won't be many long passes in the playbook, so Dalton's lack of arm strength may not hold Green back as much as some people think early in the year. However, defenses will adjust and play closer to the line of scrimmage because they won't be afraid of getting beat deep. The Bengals schedule in the final two months of the season features games played outdoors in northern cities like Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and of course Cincinnati. The cold weather is difficult to throw in and it could make the Bengals even more of a run heavy offense. Dalton may also struggle to throw if there's a strong wind during the game. The weather, and any sort of rookie wall felt by Dalton could hold back Green's numbers in the fantasy playoffs.

Can he develop as a route runner?
Green gets to top speed in a hurry, but he's got a long stride when he runs. He's quick in and out of breaks, but has an obvious tell when he makes his move. He has to throttle down so much that savvy cornerbacks should be able to jump the route. This will lead to more contested catches for the rookie. It's a good thing that Green is so adept at making tough catches on slant routes. He'll struggle to become a Jerry Rice like route runner but has an extra gear to gain separation after he makes his break.

Will physical cornerbacks continue to frustrate him?
Green knows how to duck under press coverage, but can really become frustrated when a cornerback is physical down field. He should see plenty of press and double coverage as he's the most dangerous threat on the Bengals roster. Expect Cincy to move him around the formation to give the defense multiple looks. They can also put Green in motion before the snap, which would help get him a clean release off the line of scrimmage. Physical play is the name of the game in the NFL and Green will have to maintain his mental focus. Every week he'll face the top cornerback on the opponent's roster.

What kind of competition will he face for the starting job in training camp?
The Bengals have a good, young group of receivers and there should be good competition in camp. Jerome Simpson flashed big play ability during the last month of the season, and the team is hoping he can carry that momentum into this year. Simpson is a big target, with big hands, who can beat one on one coverage down the field. Second-year player Jordan Shipley could play his way into a bigger role this year. He has very good hands but may be best used as the team's slot receiver. Andre 'Bubba' Caldwell is a tough receiver who is not afraid to go over the middle. He'll compete with Shipley for the team's slot receiver role. Every rookie has to win their job in training camp, but we might as well write Green's spot at the top of the depth chart right now in permanent marker. His skill set and draft status are enough to believe he'll begin the year in the starting lineup.

Positives

  • Fantastic hand/eye coordination
  • Great athletic ability, rare concentration and body control
  • Large catching radius, able to make contested catches with ease

Negatives

  • Could be held back by rookie QB
  • Stride may prevent him from developing into a great route runner
  • Can be frustrated by physical cornerbacks

Final thoughts

The Bengals are moving to a West Coast offense under new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. With rookie QB Andy Dalton they will rely on their running game to help open up the coverage for the passing game. Even though Green may not be used much as a deep threat there's a good chance he'll be the team's leading receiver when all is said and done. He's the type of player you want to involve early and often. Dalton's mantra should be 'get A.J. the ball as quickly as possible' in 2011. He could certainly outperform his ADP (WR31) and there's a chance that he breaks into the top 20. A.J. Green is a superstar just waiting to shine brightly on the NFL stage.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

cobalt_27 said:

Anyone predicting 1,000 yards in Year 1 is banking on a black swan type of event to occur with Green. He's one of the best college receivers I've seen. He's so fluid and effortless. But, top-pick rookie receivers rarely cross the 1000-yard barrier, and I wouldn't predict anything different, particularly with a rookie QB at the helm.

On the other hand, I fully expect Dalton to excel in this system eventually, and I see Green taking full advantage of a very active passing game by Year 2...and become an elite WR by the end of his 3rd year. As someone above posted, it shouldn't really be of much concern if the Bengals suck as a team. There's a long history of successful WRs on bad teams. I think talent outweighs things here, and honestly, being part of a bad team means lots of passing opportunities. I see him as a perennial 90/1200/7 guy starting Year 3.

sspunisher said:

I'd like to add that there's a very few organizations in the NFL that would have me second guesss a great talent like A.J. Green. The Bengals are definitely one of them. I thought those Bungle days were long gone but after seeing how the team is slowly unraveling, I can't help but think of Hard Knocks and how much of a joke Mike Brown seemed to me. The problems for A.J. Green clearly start at the front office and trickle down. A team that refuses to deal a QB and get something in return just boggles my mind. They'd rather sit there and hold onto Palmer just to prove a point or spite him rather than get something in return to improve a team that's long been at the bottom of the barrel.

Just a quick wiki of Mike Brown gives insight to how he refuses to hire a general manager probably because he pockets a fat general manager bonus check every year. He also is notorious for paying members of his family millions of dollars (employees of the organization obviously) instead of using that money for free agents, a GM or a decent scouting department. Let's not forget the whole accepting of "low character" type of players in Cincinnati.

Okay okay, this is an A.J. Green thread not a Bengals thread. But the point is, all this adds up as red flags for A.J. Green. It's not hard to imagine the Bengals at the bottom of that divison for the next few years. Even worse, PIT, CLE and BAL have great owners/managers that should keep them in contention every single year for the next 10 years. Losing year after year crushes morale and leads to complacency. Surround a "loser team" with a bunch of questionable character guys and problems will start popping up for your 1.01-1.03 dynasty pick.

We Tigers said:

I don't know if I'd call him a Calvin/Fitz type talent, but he's definitely not much more than a step or two down in long-term potential. I think he'll get up to his real playing weight sometime this season--he's probably going to add 5-10 pounds if he can keep his speed--and obviously be adjusting to the game and a rookie QB. Still, he's going to be WR1 there by default, and I see 50-60 catches as very likely. A fun gamble in the middle rounds, and someone who dynasty players should still feel comfortable slotting into lineups in 3WR leagues.

FF Ninja said:

Cincinnati is a team in transition. The ground game has been woeful, despite prolific use in 2009 (584 RB carries at only 3.8 ypc) that was allowed by the 6th best defense in the NFL. Last year saw a dip to 394 RB carries as the defense fell to 24th in the league, corresponding to an increase in passing attempts from 477 to 589. With the likely departure of Carson Palmer, the team may be left with a poor defense, a poor running game, and a poor passing game. But with TO gone and 85 likely to be gone, someone has to catch the many passes. With an ADP of WR33 Green does not present bad value, but certainly doesn't have the upside of a guy in a prolific offense and/or experience in that offense. The lockout has no doubt hurt his chances of making an early impact. It also has prevented the team from signing (and getting up to speed) a veteran QB who could get him the ball better than a rookie with questionable arm strength. In all likelihood, Shipley and Gresham will be the top targets if Dalton is the week 1 starter and Green could see WR1 coverage. I can't see myself drafting Green as my WR3 when the guy leaving a vacancy in Cincy, Ochocinco, is being drafted as WR43 and will likely be heading to a better situation than the unproven Green.

In summary, there are just too many questions surrounding Green to make him a smart play in 2011. Marvin Lewis surely wants to revitalize the defense and running game, decreasing passing attemps. But if that doesn't work then you are likely looking at a flurry of passes from a rookie QB with a scarce number of scoring opps. Not exactly the upside one hopes for when drafting a third WR. But if he is named the week 1 starting wideout then he should see enough targets to not totally bust from that draft position.

Sabertooth said:

Boy, I really like the kid, but I can't help but be concerned about the poor quality of the Bengals organization. They offer very little stability. Whereas a kid like Jones goes to Atlanta who has been very impressive under Smith. After watching them twice play my Packers last season I came away with a very favorable impression of the coaching staff. Marvin Lewis is on the hot seat every year it seems. Mike Smith just keeps bringing his team forward.

I really like Green's talent. But he would need a QB. He'd need a system that can take advantage of it. This is one of those situations where IF he can assimilate the pro game and IF Cincinatti can figure out how to get him the ball consistently, he could be special. Too many questions for my liking. He might do as a long shot later in a draft if he really slid, but counting on Green to be more than a WR4 is too risky before the last part of the draft.


A.J. Green projections

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