A.J. Green Reinforces Status as Elite NFL Wide Receiver While Dominating Jaguars


A.J. Green Reinforces Status as Elite NFL Wide Receiver While Dominating JaguarsThere's a reason why the Bengals took A.J. Green fourth overall in the 2011 NFL draft — he may soon be competing with Calvin Johnson for the distinguished honor of "best in the game."

After Sunday's dominant performance over the Jaguars where Green caught six passes for 117 yards and a touchdown, the Bengals No. 1 receiver is now second in the league with 428 yards. He's currently on pace for 108 receptions, 1,712 yards, 12 touchdowns and is averaging 15.9 yards per catch.

It can be risky to take a wide receiver so early in the draft because so much of their success depends on the quarterback. In 2011, the Bengals drafted Green early in the first round and his quarterback Andy Dalton in the second. This was one of the rare cases where that was the right order. The Bengals could have taken Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder with that fourth overall pick, but instead chose to draft the most NFL-ready wide receiver to come out of college in years and wait to pair him with a quarterback. Luckily, Dalton was still around early in the second round, and he's been better than expected — thanks to Green.

Green is one of those rare receivers that doesn't depend on his quarterback, but vice versa. He is a physical, fast 6-foot-4, 207-pound player that can beat defenses deep, shallow or over the middle. He's a smooth athlete who's quick in his routes and catches anything that comes near him.

Green was voted to the Pro Bowl in his rookie year when he had 1,057 yards on 65 receptions and seven touchdowns, and he's only gotten better since then. He already has five receptions of over 20 yards and he has two receptions for 40-plus yards. Green will no doubt improve as he gains more experience in the NFL, but even if he stopped his progression right now he'd be a pro bowler every season.

It's only his second season, but Green is already in the running for best wide receiver in the game. He's on a short list with players like Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White and Andre Johnson. All of those players are more experienced, but Green's rookie season trumps all of them — and it's not like he had an elite signal-caller throwing to him. None of those four players had 1,000-yard rookie seasons, and only Fitzgerald had more touchdowns with eight.

Green will be a fun player to monitor in the future, and he and Dalton will have all the time in the world to keep developing a raport. A key to Green's success will be whether the Bengals can develop a solid No. 2 option across from him. Second-year player Andrew Hawkins has been great in the slot, and Cincinnati has three talented rookie options in Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones and Armon Binns that could be the missing piece across from Green outside.

By the end of the season, we could be calling Green the best wide receiver in the NFL if he keeps up this pace.

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