Let me start by explaining a disclaimer for my rankings. When I sit down during the draft fallout period of the NFL off-season, I put all of my spare time into my stat projected rankings spreadsheet.
Once all of the players (357 this year) who I deem to be ‘fantasy relevant’, well, at least a contributor in one way or another, I meticulously siphon through data relevant to the player and team that they are on, as well as looking at other variables such as such as strength of schedule and in the case of A.J Green – injury history.
This is where the disclaimer comes in. My rankings will change throughout the off-season. As we head through OTA’s and into training camp, player vs player battles occur, and injury questions are answered. With that in mind, let me explain why you’ll see A.J Green is lower in my current rankings than other analysts’ predictions.
A gold star to any of you who might have guessed this was going to be my first point of interest. For the record, I don’t think Green will be missing of the starting team sheet come week 1 for Cincinnati when they travel to Seattle, hence the disclaimer – if he’s fit and ready to go in pre-season, he’ll likely rise up my rankings at least a few spots although I highly doubt he’ll be breaking into my top 10.
As things stand, what do we know about A.J Green and what forced him to finish the 2018 season early? We know it was a toe injury which cut the season short, and despite you probably thinking the toe is not a big deal… think again. Turf toe is a nasty injury, especially for a wide receiver.
Effectively “turf toe” is a glorified way of saying a sprained toe. But when you use that toe every day for your job, like every time a player turns in his route or jumps for a reception, the toe is one of the first points of pressure. If it is not rested for a significant amount of time or surgically repaired, it will become a recurring injury, sometimes even years down the line.
This is seemingly what has happened to Green. He first had turf toe on his big toe in his right foot in October 2014, where he missed 4 total games that season. Fast forward to 2018, and after “multiple tears” within that toe, surgery was the only answer to try and get that toe back to 100%.
The latest report on A.J Green’s post surgery in May suggests that the healing process is going well and that he ‘should’ be back for training camp after being able to run a few routes during the OTA process.
The moment A.J Green is practicing in full and is showing full competency in his route running without being hindered will be the moment my stat projections will change for him and like I said before, i’m sure he’ll be higher in my estimations.
That being said, i’m still not a massive fan of the Bengals offense, and I question whether recent additions and breakout players will allow Green to just jump back in to his 9 target per game career average.
With the exciting talent of Joe Mixon opening a whole new run scheme dynamic along with exciting new rookies Rodney Anderson and Treyveon Williams, and the emergence of Tyler Boyd as a pass catcher will likely mean Green isn’t the only star on the team as has been the case since he entered the league in 2011. Don’t forget ‘sicknote’ Tyler Eifert is also back and is a severe threat for stealing red-zone targets if he can stay upright.
I’m also not sold on the return of Andy Dalton. The best word I can find to describe Dalton’s career to date is ‘meh’. He’s flashed at times, he’s completely stunk at times, and now at 32 years old and coming off a surgery of his own, is he going to be able to vastly improve and sustain a wider plethora of talent now? Unlikely. Heck, there was even talk of the Bengals cutting ties with Dalton this off-season as they would save a boat load of cap space if they did.
New Coaching Team
It’s a transformation period that the Bengals are currently going through. Out with the old, in with the new I believe the saying is. But how does that sit with Green? In a short interview in January, Green stated the new coach will provide a “spark that is needed” yet at the same time did concede it will be a big change for him as being coached by Marvin Lewis is “the only thing he knows”.
New head coach Zac Taylor was the former Quarterback’s coach for the L.A Rams and is unproven as a HC; so it is difficult to ascertain how he intends to use his weapons this season. He might well step in and realise the successful history and chemistry between Dalton and Green and look to use that as his foundation to build success, but it could also go the other way and be the start of wholesale changes within the franchise that would see both players eventually faded out.
Brian Callahan, the new Offensive Coordinator is also a debutante at the position, and was also a Quarterback coach last season, but for Derek Carr in Oakland – who, coincidentally, traded away and moved on from their star receiver, Amari Cooper.
We’ll see where Green ends up in my training camp rankings in July – if he’s a full go at camp, he’ll no doubt move into my top 20. My opinion, however, is still not that high for him this season.
Let’s not forget that he and Dalton are now “the old guys”. Green is now 30 years old which is around about the time that Wide Receivers do start to decline, especially when coming off a surgery, and with other major injuries occurring in his career (torn hamstring in 2016) taken into consideration.
Green has accumulated just 2,736 receiving yards over the last 3 years with 18 touchdowns. That’s only 28 yards and 2 TD’s more than 31 year old Demaryius Thomas who has current ADP of WR88 and may not even make the final Patriots roster come September. Another declining wide-out in the same age range? Dez Bryant, who wasn’t exactly a sort after free agent before being claimed by the Saints last season and will likely not play again after sustaining a season, possibly career ending achilles injury.
For these reasons, it could be a season for Green where the Bengals and their “new look approach” look to move on to the future, and forget the past. I won’t be buying in to A.J Green being one of the first players on my fantasy teams this year – too much risk, that’s for sure.
by Rob Grimwood – @FFBritballer