Unlike the Quarterback position, there is no real debate as to who should be the first Wide Receiver off the board in your draft – Calvin Johnson has to be your pick. Following Megatron though the selection becomes a little hairier: do you snag the Green or Bryant?
By the time the mid-to-late second round of your fantasy draft rolls around, these guys both become legitimate and reasonable picks – both are elite wideouts who can command the type of pick it requires to take them, but there has to be a definitive answer to which to select…doesn’t there?
A.J. Green vs. Dez Bryant
Andrew stumps for Green: Although both players are dealing with small dings in the pre-season (Green with a knee scare and Bryant with a jammed thumb), I’m going to fade those issues when discussing why you should draft Green over Bryant, as both issues seem relatively minor and shouldn’t impact their ability to play the season.
A.J. Green is simply a beast of a man and NFL receiver. Standing at Six-Foot-Four-Inches (he’s got a two inch lead on Dez), he’s got the height necessary to beat Cornerbacks league-wide and remain a Red Zone target of almost unmatched proportions. During just his second year in the league, A.J. snagged touchdowns in 10 of 16 weeks and totalled 11 on the year; Dez, on the other hand, nabbed TDs in just 8 of 16 games.
Consistent week in and week out performances aren’t Dez Bryant’s specialty. Despite finishing the year like a big house on fire (and posting over 140 yards three times between week 11 and week 17), Dez also posted 8 games in which he failed to reach 5 receptions [and indeed a 9th where he hit 5 on the nose] – a start contrast to Green who fell short on 5 grabs on only four occasions.
When I’m selecting a guy with a top-20 pick, there’s nothing I’d rather have than that week-to-week consistency. Green has shown throughout just two years that he’s a pillar of a player, maturity, and the future of the Bengals – a Bengals roster that is mostly devoid of other reasonable targets (save perhaps at the TE position should Eifert develop). Bryant? Well, despite his third year in the league seemingly a turned corner, is more hit-or-miss, plays on a team with more “other reliable targets” (Miles Austin and Jason Witten to name a couple), and has had well documented maturity issues throughout his short career. I’m taking A.J. Green if the opportunity becomes mine…over to you, Jon.
Jon backs Bryant: I think it’s important to start by acknowledging that I’m not arguing against Green here whatsoever, but I’m happy to argue for Dez. It’s a minor distiction, but it isn’t irrelevant. Both guys are going to help their owners win matchups this season.
A.J. Green has a number of positives going for him, too. He’s entering the ‘magical’ third year, the same such season with Quarterback Andy Dalton who has looked sharp this offseason and projects to continue his development along with Green and the rest of the Bengals offense. These are all positives, along with the addition via the draft of another threat at TE and a presumed stronger run game with Giovani Bernard should help the offense be more productive as a whole, which has overall perks for Green.
With that said, you can expect others to cut into his sixth-best-among-receivers 158 targets from 2012, at the very least you shouldn’t expect the number to increase. This should be viewed as a bit of a concern for anyone anticipating increased production from Green this year (don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with his 2012 season). Still, Green caught just 60.7 percent of those targets last year after catching 56.9% as a rookie. Catch rate is an often under-cited statistic when evaluating receivers, which I’ve discussed in a previous post. 60 percent isn’t a woeful number but you’d like to see a guy with that many targets over 100 receptions. Bryant, meanwhile, did more with less last year. He had twenty fewer targets but managed to catch 67.2% of them, amassing 92 catches for more yards, yards per reception, and touchdowns than Green.
While the two receivers posted similar stats last year over the course of the full season, they finished the campaign on very different notes. Bryant was trending up – significantly – from week ten onward he averaged 18.17 fantasy points per game on the strength of 10 touchdowns in eight games and failing to reach the end zone in just one of them. Green, meanwhile closed poorly (relative to his first eight games) with an average of just 9.95 FPPG, finding the endzone just once from week 12 forward. The focus on second half numbers is arbitrary, of course, but with Green the fact is simple that you’d like to see a young WR finish strong. With Bryant, most observers would agree that he truly turned a corner last year and late in the season in particular. I’m betting on him carrying over that dominant play into the 2013 campaign – he’s been incredible on the tape in the preseason, go routes, over the middle, everywhere – and that’s why he’s my lock for the second wide receiver off the board.