Let’s face it, A.J. Green has been the most volatile WR1 in fantasy since 2013. But does that mean he is a great best ball option only? No. A.J. Green is worthy of a top-five pick in redraft leagues this season. The past is crucial in order to examine future output in a player but one must look deeper to determine Green’s recent battle with consistency. His last two seasons have been filled with the following: tough match ups and limited targets. How can you expect a player to output WR1 value with 116 and 132 targets in 2014 and 2015 respectively. We know the uber-talented Green just needs the ball in his hands and this will be the year it happens more than ever before.
Taking a quick look at the chart posted in Mike Randle’s recent examination of A.J. Green’s weekly volatility on PlayerProfiler, one would quickly believe A.J. Green is an extremely inconsistent receiver and cannot be trusted as a WR1 in redrafts. This misconception is exactly what has enabled me to grab Green as late as 10th in some redrafts thus far. I’m not complaining. In 2015, starting QB Andy Dalton missed three games in which Green struggled. Though it was only three games where Green was forced to play with backup A.J. McCarron, it clearly did not do any good for Green or his fantasy owners. While that doesn’t explain Green’s volatility in 2014, the simple answer is a lack of targets. As the No. 1 receiver in the Bengals offense, he received just under nine targets per game. McCarron, Dalton’s 2014, 132 targets and even tough CB match-ups attributed to the volatility.
Let’s be clear, Andy Dalton is by no means a star QB. But he is by no means a bad QB. Recency bias can be attributed to the unfair hate Dalton constantly faces. He had a great start to his 2015, so why the scrutiny? In 2014, Dalton was flat out terrible. Before going down with an injury, here’s some notable stats about Dalton’s 2015 and why you should have no worries about who’s throwing the ball to Green. According to PlayerProfiler, he was 8th in completion percentage, 6th in deep ball completion percentage (throws over 20 yards), 7th in production premium, 2nd in passer rating and 5th in QBR. Normally I would never string such a large amount of statistics together simply because it becomes redundant. In this case, the redundancy is necessary in order to prove how effective an more importantly, how efficient Dalton was. I’m sorry, but how could he possibly scare anyone away from Green?
Sure, he was a middle of the pack QB when examining red zone numbers but even that isn’t too bad. People scared of Andy Dalton were surely scared away by the Texans QB carousel last season, which would inevitably lead you to avoiding breakout star DeAndre Hopkins. QB play is important and of course an elite QB is preferred when selecting your top WR. But Dalton’s efficiency metrics basically were elite, as he finished in the top eight in each efficiency metric on PlayerProfiler. Don’t be fooled by one poor season. Green and Dalton came into this league together and will continue to be the greatest love story in football as they will connect for another beautiful 10 touchdowns this season.
Will 2016 Be Different?
How is it even fathomable to compare the past two seasons where he only had a 26-percent share of team wide receiver targets? Teams change, players get injured — past statistics and numbers are easy to copy and paste but it’s tough to overlook the 153 targets missing with Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu gone. And that’s without adding Tyler Eifert’s targets, assuming he misses a couple games early on. Newly added Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd will soak up all of those targets! Right? WRONG! Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have been together since the draft. It’s a better love story than Twilight and you know it. The irreplaceable connection between the two will not be destroyed by LaFail and a rookie. NOTE: I love Tyler Boyd and do like his chances to surpass LaFell midway through the season)
If A.J. Green can eclipse 180-plus targets, which I expect him to do or at least come very close to doing, he will be a top-five WR in fantasy. With an inexperienced Dalton and a younger Green, the two were able to accomplish the stat line seen above. I expect Green to end up around 98-105 receptions, 1500 yards and 12 TD’s this season.
Safety and Potential
When analyzing a potential first-round pick in fantasy drafts, we try to identify the potential but also the chance of the player becoming a bust. Competition and consistency are two traits that typically sway drafters from one player to another. Per Rich Hribar in a recent RotoWorld article, “A.J. Green is the only player other than Randy Moss to have at least 60 receptions and 1,000 yards in each of his first five seasons to start his career.” Well, is that safe enough for you? Green is one of the few players this year who has almost no competition while also being extremely talented AND proven.
Obviously you want your No. 1 WR in both fantasy and real life to beat out the number one corners. But A.J. Green had to face four top-10 CB’s in 2015. The chart is pretty clear, Green didn’t have the easiest of schedules last year. According to PlayerProfiler’s upcoming schedule metric, he has the fifth easiest upcoming schedule in terms of fantasy points allowed to WR’s. He was still a viable fantasy option even with all of those factors, though he proved to be a failure as a WR1 selection because of the volatility shown by Mike Randle — 2016 will be different.
A.J. Green will be the go-to guy in Cincinnati once again. Tyler Boyd was a college mega producer, but more importantly, Boyd is a rookie. Brandon LaFell will likely miss multiple regular season games with torn ligaments in his hand and Tyler Eifert is rehabilitating a broken ankle. Given this talent-depleted receiving corps, Green may be focused but could face a ridiculous amount of targets. He’s right in the prime of his career and is likely headed towards a 2012-2013 repeat.
While A.J. Green may not be a top-three fantasy option, the argument to make him a top-five selection is straightforward. When Green is back to his dominant form and hits over 165 targets, you’ll be a pleased fantasy owner. Normally, Green would likely be a back-end of the first type of guy, but with so much uncertainty in the first round — the decision is quite easy. The reasons for his recent weekly volatility are explainable. I give you the ‘Green’ light to go with the safe, consistent, and talented Green as a top-five pick in fantasy this year.