A.J. Green Fantasy Preview: Over or Under Drafted in 2020

A.J. Green Fantasy

A.J. Green has consistently been a staple of Fantasy drafts over the past decade, coming off draft boards as a top 5-10 receiver. After missing the entire 2019 season, Green’s ADP as WR28 took a hit and dropped to his lowest since entering the league, but he is starting to slowly climb once again, possibly after signing his franchise tender. So Fantasy owners are left with two questions: Is A.J. Green’s current ADP poised to make him a steal? Or is he being drafted higher than his true value at this point in his career?

ADP compressor

The Case Supporting A.J.Green’s ADP

A.J. Green has a resume that many consider being Hall of Fame worthy. He has finished seasons as a top 10 receiver four times in his career, including overall WR3 and WR4 finishes consecutively in 2012 and 2013, and finished as WR10 as recent as 2017. The longtime Bengal has posted over 1,000 yards in 6 of 8 seasons in the league, excluding 2019 when he missed the entire season. He was on pace for another strong season in 2018 before a toe injury, posting 46 receptions for 694 yards and 6 touchdowns, which put him on pace for 90 receptions, 1,374 yards, and 12 touchdowns. Playing under the franchise tag can only motivate Green, as he looks for a final big payday after this season.

A.J. Green was very durable during the early part of his career, playing in 76 of a possible 80 games. Last year’s ankle injury during the first day of camp was unrelated to the previous toe injury he suffered in 2018. The Bengals were flat out horrible last season and with little to play for, there was no rush to get Green back on the field, especially in a contract year. Green has been reported as 100% healthy heading into camp this year and thought to be in the clear going forward.

  • Chance of Injury in 2020: 53.6%
  • Chance of Injury per Game: 4.7%
  • Projected Games missed for 2020: 1.9
  • Durability Rating: 4
  • Overall: Low Risk

Injury Report From sportsinjurypredictor.com

A thought shared by many is that Green has overperformed due to Andy Dalton being at the helm during his entire career, coming into the league as a rookie himself with Dalton. Both exceeded expectations in 2011 as Green topped 1,000 yards, breaking the mold of rookie receivers being able to produce consistently. I don’t think you’ll have a hard time arguing that Joe Burrow is an upgrade over Dalton. The Cincinnati offense as a whole looks to be ascending, especially the air attack, with the addition of rookie Tee Higgins to go along with Tyler Boyd, John Ross III, and Auden Tate.

The Case Against A.J. Green’s ADP

Consistency is what I’m looking for when I approach a draft, and Green has failed to play in all 16 games during the majority of his career. However, during the 2017 season, he played all 16 games and posted over 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns. While Green has the potential to reach these numbers again, I don’t want to bank on this as a certainty. Green has missed 29 of his last 64 games, including his productive season in 2017. While staying healthy during the beginning of his career, Green has recently become inflicted with lower leg injuries that have limited his ability to get on the field.

It seems as if all of a sudden A.J. Green has become 32 years old. According to Fantasy Pros, a receiver at age 32 only has a 3.23% chance of finishing with elite upside, top 5 overall. Many people will be pursuing Green in hopes of his return to elite status, but this is a dart throw at best. However, according to this research, a receiver at the age of 32 has a 16.13% (4th highest) chance of producing top 12 numbers, which would serve as a WR1 receiver in your lineup. Assessing Green becomes very complex due to his unique situation, but owners may need to temper their expectations of a player north of 30 with a history of lower leg injuries.

Joe Burrow compressorI’m not afraid of the Cincinnati offense due to Joe Burrow. I believe that he will finish as the top rookie QB in fantasy and increase the value of players around him. The receiver that I feel benefits the most from Burrow’s play is not Green, but Tyler Boyd. According to Pro Football Focus, Boyd is the 9th highest rated receiver when lined up in the slot since 2018. Boyd also finished as WR 17 and WR18 in PPR leagues the past two seasons, while exceeding 1,000 yards in each. The stats don’t stop there as he has the most receiving yards out of the slot in the entire NFL since 2018 at 1,509. Burrow already has a history of successfully targeting slot receivers. Look no farther than Justin Jefferson last year at LSU, who posted 111 receptions for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns, working primarily out of the slot.  Boyd WR35 seems like the perfect fit for Burrow, going 2 rounds later than Green.

I could easily write an entire article about Boyd, as I am extremely high on him this year, but other great options are going after A.J. Green. DeVante Parker is first up at WR29, directly after Green. I understand if you’ve been burnt by Parker in the past and your gut is giving you a hard “no.” Yet Parker’s tremendous finish in 2019 may be more of signs to come than an exception. Finishing the season with over 1,200 yards and 9 touchdowns shows that Parker is finally reaching his potential. Not to mention, the return of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the addition of Tua Tagovailoa gives Parker at least the same level of quarterback play in 2020, if not greater.

While Parker has a very high ceiling, he does lack consistency. An alternative option to both Green and Parker is Jarvis Landry, who provides incredible consistency. Landry WR31 has never missed a game in his career (my apologies to Jarvis for pointing that out). He’s surpassed 900 yards every season excluding his rookie year. He’s also caught over 80 balls each season. Being able to bank on a player like this gives you the freedom to target the top-end talent you feel strongly about earlier in the draft.

Another rising talent you could pursue over Green is Michael Gallup WR33. People may believe there’s not enough to go around in Dallas, but Coach McCarthy loves the passing game. CeeDee Lamb will only further open things up in Dallas, meaning Cooper and Gallup will continue to get their opportunities. Gallup put up over 1,100 yards last year while missing two games due to injury. He is growing in every aspect of his game, and if you need more assurance check out Doug Moore’s endorsement on Gridiron Experts.

The Verdict

A.J. Green may have the largest range from floor to ceiling of any player heading into 2020. I’m a firm believer that in fantasy you need to rely on your gut. If your gut is telling you that Green will return to his former status based upon previous data, by all means, use his lower ADP to your advantage. As my fantasy gut (and real gut…apologies to my wife) continues to grow, I can’t get behind A.J. Green this season for many reasons; namely, injury, age, Joe Burrow’s tendencies, and unbelievable depth at the wide receiver position. While Green missed the 2019 season, Parker and Landry both finished as top 12 receivers, along with Boyd and Gallup in the top 24 as well. As the most unpredictable year of fantasy football to date draws near, collecting as many reliable players as possible will be paramount. Bench space will be limited, and being able to utilize the same guy each week is much more valuable than saving a spot on the bench in hopes of a player with his own uncertainties returning to his previous status.

 

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