Why I Hate A.J. Green
By Jake Ciely
There have been a few recurring themes for me this fantasy football offseason: find room on my Montee Ball bandwagon for more of you, continually laud Rashad Jennings and Toby Gerhart until you all get it, endlessly point out how undervalued Doug Baldwin is, fail at keeping my league commitment to single digits, point out all of the flaws of women I meet so I have a reason for my singleness… and, surprisingly, defend my "low" ranking of A.J. Green.
For reference, I don't have Green that low, as he ranks sixth at receiver in both my standard and PPR rankings with 16th overall in standard and 17th in PPR. As you can see, Green isn't absurdly low by any means. I simply prefer Calvin Johnson (obviously), Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Julio Jones and Brandon Marshall. However, Green has the second highest ADP on myfantasyleague.com, just ahead of Thomas (Dez, Julio and Marshall follow).
The first argument thrown at me is that Green finished fourth each of the last two seasons. The second is that "Green has no competition in that offense for targets." Okay, let's address those points, and more.
You know who finished fifth and second the past two years, and who finished second and fifth? Thomas and Marshall.
Which offense and quarterback do you trust more? Peyton Manning and the Broncos or Andy Dalton and the Bengals? And as for Green slightly beating out Thomas in 2012, that was a result of 38 rushing yards and one extra touchdown.
With Marshall, Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) saved me the work of looking it up (and I would have because I knew the numbers were good), but since being traded to the Bears, Marshall has 21 weeks in the Top 24 and 16 in the Top 12. On top of that, when Jay Cutler is under center, Marshall is averaging 11.5 targets, 7.1 receptions, 91.0 receiving yards, 0.8 touchdowns and 17.3 fantasy points. Without Cutler: 9.0/5.2/75.4/0.4/12.6. In other words, a 16-game Cutler led offense would project to 184/114/1,456/13… or 276.8 FP… OORRR nearly 50 points more than Josh Gordon and Calvin Johnson last year! In fact, that would be more fantasy points than any receiver since Randy Moss in 2007.
What about Bryant and Jones then? Well, Bryant finished third and sixth the past two years and actually had one more catch on 21 more targets. If anything, Bryant's efficiency should jump back up this year, pushing back into that Top Three. With Jones, remember that he was on pace for 192 targets, 131 receptions, 1,856 yards, six touchdowns and 227 fantasy points. Those 227 points are how many Gordon and Calvin scored, and you have to think that the touchdown total would have been better. Sure, you can argue that those five games were otherworldly, but where is Matt Ryan going to turn this year? Tony Gonzalez is gone, and Roddy White is still good, but not the receiver he once was. Plus, the Falcons are one of the pass-happiest teams in the league. Look out for Julio!
I've made the case for all of the names in front of Green, now it's time for the case against him, and it comes down to one man: Hue Jackson. Okay, two men really, but we'll get to that.
As for Jackson, the man loves to run the ball, and he said that’s his plan for 2014. As offensive coordinator and head coach of the Raiders, Jackson ranked seventh and fourth in rushing attempts with a 47 and 50 percent run rate. Dalton won't be posting another 586-attempt season. I'd look for Dalton to fall back down to the 520-530 range. As such, Dalton is the other man behind the lesser expectations for Green. I also expect Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert to improve and demand more targets… so, okay, I guess maybe there is a foursome affecting Green's outlook. No matter the case, Green had 176 and 178 targets the past two seasons, and we just won't see three straight years of that. Look for Green to finish with a target total in the 150s, which results in a mid-80s and 1200-yard range reception projection. That great, no terrific, for fantasy purposes, but it simply doesn't match the numbers those Top Five receivers will bring.