2021 Bounce-Back Candidate: WR A.J. Green, Arizona Cardinals

“Touchdown! Adriel….Jeremiah!”

If you are a Bengals fan reading this article, then you know the above quote very well. That was the sound of Cincinnati Bengals radio announcers Dan Hoard and Dave Lapham excitedly exclaiming a touchdown whenever the player that this column is about scored. Ever since he stepped onto the field in 2011, A.J. Green was one of the best receivers in the NFL. He made seven straight Pro Bowls from his rookie year of 2011 through 2017 and was part of a feisty and energetic core in the Queen City and paired with QB Andy Dalton to form one of the more underrated QB-WR tandems of the decade. He was a key reason why the team made five consecutive playoff appearances from 2011-2015, and likely why former Coach Marvin Lewis hung onto the job for so long.

He was a quiet superstar who showed up and always got the job done, and outside of an uncharacteristic on-field altercation in 2017 with then Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey, he never got any attention that he may have truly deserved. Fantasy footballers knew his true value though, as he was a WR1 for many years.

In recent years, the wideout’s health has been a constant source of frustration. It began in 2018, when a toe injury sidelined him in Week 8. That toe injury would nag him for the rest of the season and he would finish the year with a modest 46 catches for 694 yards and six touchdowns. The cruel irony is that he began the year with a three touchdown game and all but indicated that he would have another monster statistical season. In 2019, he did not play at all as he suffered torn ligaments in his ankle during training camp and would not be able to shake the injury during the season, opting to go on I.R. late in the season.

In 2020, he only recorded 47 receptions and 523 yards with a pair of scores. One could argue that injuries, along with lost seasons piling up and a franchise in clear rebuilding mode could have sapped Green’s desire and his ability to be effectiveness.

It’s here that many have begun to argue that Green’s fantasy value is in decline. At age 33, Green is likely not the receiver that he once was in Cincinnati but that does not mean that he can’t be valuable in a different location. The Arizona Cardinals signed A.J. Green to a 1 year/$8.5 million deal back in March and will provide some much needed veteran leadership to an offense that looks set to take off in 2021. This offense is much more explosive than any of the ones he played for with the Bengals. He never had an all-world receiver opposite him like he does in DeAndre Hopkins.

Likewise, Kyler Murray is head and shoulders above Andy Dalton in terms of playmaking and athletic ability and his penchant to extend the play and make spectacular throws. The Cardinals offense will in turn give Green chances to make plays and win the one-on-one matchups that he will likely face. Playing for a young, talented, up and coming team like this to go along with the creative mind of coach Kliff Kingsbury can do wonders to help rejuvenate a players career. Arizona will look to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015 and there is no doubt Green will be happy to contribute to the cause. 

DeAndre Hopkins is still the man in Arizona and will eat, let’s not get it twisted. There are plenty of teams that would love to have a player and true professional like A.J. Green in their locker room (I know my Eagles would). The Cardinals and Green will both benefit each other and I believe the results will show on the football field. Don’t read into the downers about Green’s value as he will be motivated to show that he can still play after all the talk about him being washed with diminishing skills, and I think he will be successful. He will make a fine WR3 in deeper fantasy leagues. Who knows? Maybe he could flirt with a 1000 yard season and show flashes of his old self this upcoming season.

Based on where I’ve seen him (not) going in fantasy drafts, you can get him practically free.  A mind-boggling thought, given that he was a surefire WR1 not that long ago.

2020 STATS: 47 receptions, 523 yards, 2 Touchdowns

2021 PROJECTIONS; 60-70 receptions, 850-950 yards, 7-10 Touchdowns

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