Yes, I am aware AJ Green is an All-Pro stud that has had back-to-back stellar seasons despite catching passes from the likes of Andy Dalton. I realize that sentence has put me in the category of the Andy Dalton doubters, but come on, even the Bengals are in that category well as an organization. Heading into his final year of his rookie contract, the Bengals have yet to exercise their options in offering the quarterback a long-term deal. A deal that has apparently been in the "talks" stage since March. And if you ask me, if the team requests that you work with a quarterback guru (Tom House) during the off-season to improve your throwing motion, that isn’t a show of confidence. With that said, let me get back to AJ Green.
So far, Green has been catching relatively anything thrown his way since 2011 and he’s been pretty sturdy in the injury department. His numbers have continued to climb year in and year out – but I fear this year will be different. With the emergence of Giovani Bernard and Marvin Jones, I foresee AJ Green’s production to slide downhill. More notably though, I strongly believe the production will fall because of the quarterback situation in Cincinnati and the emergence of Marvin Jones. Jones showed much promise in the final stretch of the season, playing just under 70% of snaps in the final four games and a surprising 77% in the wild card playoff loss to the Chargers. Considering Jones only had 1 touchdown in 2012 then exploded for 10 in 2013 and more than tripled his yardage, this young player has shown promise and a consistency to improve. With another year in the offense and working alongside Green, I definitely expect him to take away some of the work Green may have previously shouldered on his own.
Running back Giovani Bernard will also see an increase in his workload, which again, will push down the production of Green. Head coach Marvin Lewis has already stated that he envisions second year growth from the RB and according to the teams website, Giovani will more than likely push the 300 touches mark this coming season. With a physical stature and play like that of Ray Rice, Bernard has shown much promise as a rookie and with new OC Hue Jackson’s track record of running the ball it isn’t farfetched to see that Bernard will be a workhorse out of the Bengals backfield; especially later on in the season if the Bengals can make another playoff push.
Another important aspect to not overlook is the contract situation with AJ Green. The Bengals have yet to exercise their 5th year option on Green’s rookie contract. That was as of April 17th (source: PFT) and the team has until May 3rd. It’s hard to believe they wouldn’t exercise their option on Green who has proven his worth, but historically the Bengals have been thrifty and I still think the quarterback situation hasn’t been cemented with Dalton under center. Only time will tell how the contract situation plays out let alone AJ’s production for fantasy owners this coming season; but I do know he is still a viable WR1 option who can still decimate NFL defenses. At the end of the day, we’re playing a speculation game – just like our weekly lineups. Do your homework and be as prepared as you can be, but remember, the unfortunate truths of the business and change in a team (or lack thereof) during the offseason can dramatically impact an All-Pro player.