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A.J. Green is Extremely Undervalued (2019 Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Jul 23, 2019

A.J. Green has been extremely undervalued in early 2019 fantasy drafts

When coming up with which players should be covered in player profiles, it’s often players who have tons of question marks and whether they present enough upside for the risk you’re taking on. Let’s just say that one of the most surprising developments of this offseason has been the expected demise of A.J. Green.

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His current price-tag sits in the third-round as the 13th wide receiver off the board. The question becomes: What happened to knock Green out of the elite tier? Maybe it’s fantasy owners tired of the injuries piling up? Maybe they believe he’s now too old to produce as the top-six receiver he’s been in the past? Whatever the case is, it’s a question that needs to be answered as we approach draft season.

INJURIES PILING UP

It’s been a tough career for the lanky wide receiver, as he’s dealt with a variety of different injuries, including a right toe injury last year that knocked him out for the season. That’s what’s most recent, but what most seem to forget is that Green played the entire 2017 season injury-free. In fact, it was just the second time in his career that he’s played less than 13 games.

He’s turning 31 at the end of July, so does that make him more susceptible to injuries? Maybe, though there’s no data to suggest that’s true. In fact, there’s a study I did this offseason that suggests his age should still be considered his prime, as 7.3 percent of 31-year-old receivers have finished top-five, the fourth-best age on the chart. To read that entire article, click here. In the end, his age and injuries are a bit overblown right now.

TARGET UPSIDE

Did you know that alpha wide receivers are a dying breed? There’s been just 11 receivers over the last two seasons who’ve topped 150 targets. Just two receivers have been on that list in both seasons, DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown. During the first eight games of last season (before hurting his toe), Green tallied 76 targets and was on pace for 152 of them. Understand that’s elite territory and he got that while Tyler Boyd was getting his production as well.

Since his rookie season, Green has averaged 9.5 targets per game, or 151.8 over the course of a 16-game season. That’s with Andy Dalton, who is now under pressure after the Bengals drafted Ryan Finley in the third-round. While Finley shouldn’t be much of a threat, Dalton knows where he’ll have the most success on the field. The guy who’s allowed him to be a starting quarterback for eight seasons in the NFL.

NEW OFFENSE/COMPETITION FOR PRODUCTION

It seems some are willing to move Tyler Boyd way up in their rankings while sliding Green down, though it’s important to note they play completely different positions in the offense. Boyd plays in the slot nearly 70 percent of the time, while Green is typically in the 15-25 percent range. While certain quarterbacks love targeting their intermediate targets, Dalton has never shied away from targeting Green, including during Boyd’s breakout 2018 campaign, as evident by Green’s 152-target pace.

There’s a new coach in town, as Zac Taylor was been hired to be the head coach and to run the offense. Coming from beneath the wings of offensive guru Sean McVay, the expectations are going to be high, though the Bengals front office clearly feels their offense has enough talent to succeed. Taylor has stated he’ll use the Rams playbook as a blueprint and go from there.

If you go through the Rams receiving corps trying to figure out who’ll play what role, Boyd fits the mold of Cooper Kupp, while John Ross is closest to Brandin Cooks, though he won’t garner the 115-plus targets Cooks does. That leaves Green as the Robert Woods of the offense, someone who can play both inside and outside, and gets consistent targets. Speaking of Ross, he’s been a massive disappointment since the Bengals took him at No. 9 overall in the 2017 draft. While you shouldn’t write him off yet, he’s not someone you have to worry about getting 100 targets or anything.

PROVEN STARDOM

This is the most important fact about Green, as he’s a proven commodity that produces every time he’s on the field. He has a fantasy floor that’s as high as almost any wide receiver in the game, and it’s important to remember he’s posted these numbers with Andy Dalton throughout his entire career. I’ve always said, “don’t pay for last year’s stats,” but in Green’s case, you’re getting a whole career’s worth of stats.

YEAR PPR FINISH
2018 WR15*
2017 WR10
2016 WR6*
2015 WR8
2014 WR14*
2013 WR4
2012 WR3
2011 WR17

*indicates PPG due to playing less than 14 games

So, he’s offered an absolute floor of top-17 with a ceiling of top-three in each year of his career. Stop trying to predict injuries because you’ll lose that game every time. You draft the player for what he does on the field and Green has been flat-out dominant. Some will wonder if he’s been consistent or if there’s been some massive games that have propped up his fantasy stats. Because of that, I’ll include his career “Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between” numbers for you and compare them to some of the greatest to play over the last 20 years.

Player WR1 % WR2 % WR3 % BOOM % BUST %
Odell Beckham Jr. 47.5% 72.9% 78.0% 30.5% 6.8%
Julio Jones 43.6% 64.5% 74.5% 24.5% 12.7%
Antonio Brown 40.6% 64.1% 76.6% 25.0% 14.8%
Michael Thomas 36.2% 61.7% 76.6% 17.0% 8.5%
A.J. Green 30.9% 59.1% 76.4% 17.3% 16.4%
Calvin Johnson 36.3% 58.5% 71.1% 22.2% 18.5%
Mike Evans 33.8% 55.8% 66.2% 16.9% 11.7%
DeAndre Hopkins 27.4% 54.7% 68.4% 14.7% 12.6%
JuJu Smith-Schuster 34.5% 51.7% 69.0% 17.2% 13.8%
Percy Harvin 26.0% 50.7% 54.8% 8.2% 28.8%
Larry Fitzgerald 32.1% 48.7% 65.8% 14.1% 19.7%
Brandon Marshall 31.0% 48.5% 63.7% 16.4% 18.7%

 

As you can see, he ranks fifth among receivers with WR2 or better performances over the course of his 110-game career, behind four receivers who are being drafted with top-15 picks in drafts right now.

2019 OUTLOOK

If you don’t realize by now that Green is extremely undervalued in drafts, you never will. You also can’t pretend that moving on from Marvin Lewis would be a bad thing for his career, as Zac Taylor is an offensive-minded head coach. He was brought in to make the offense better and it’s not as if the Bengals defense is going to be stopping much of anything. The Bengals have also dealt with some losses on the offensive line as of late, as guard Clint Boling decided to retire, and first-round pick Jonah Williams had to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, meaning their run-game will have a bit of trouble.

There are a lot of question marks about the Bengals offense heading into 2019, but Green isn’t one of them. He’s someone you build your offense around and Dalton’s recognized that throughout his career. If you’re lucky enough to land Green in the third-round, congrats, because you were just handed the best-case scenario. He’s worth a mid-to-late second-round pick and should be taken in front of guys like Amari Cooper, T.Y. Hilton, and Mike Evans. Heck, you could argue he should go in front of others, but fortunately, you don’t have to make that decision.


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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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