I recently wrote an article 2011 NFL Mock Draft: Predicting the Arizona Cardinals during which I attempted to predict the players, or sort of players, that the Cardinals may target during the upcoming NFL draft.
For my first pick, I suggested that the Cardinals should look for a QB, namely Ryan Mallett, but that if he was already gone, none of the remaining rookie QBs are automatic starters.
I suggested that they could consider selecting Prince Amukamara, or AJ Green instead, as both are more suited to starting at an NFL level in year one.
Never have I written anything so controversial.
While no-one really disagreed with Amukamara, the inclusion of Green has garnered a lot of response, ranging from calling him an unnecessary luxury, to stating, in no uncertain terms, that he will not improve the Cardinals in any way.
Rather than writing, I feel that I now spend more time defending that decision in the comments, and while I am more than happy to do so, I decided that maybe the time has come to openly explain why I think AJ Green could end up catching passes for the Cardinals in 2011.
AJ Green is the most NFL ready player in the draft.
That's right, I said it. He will have a more immediate effect on whichever team chooses him than anyone else in the draft. AJ Green is more ready than Andrew Luck, Da'Quan Bowers, Amukamara and Mallet.
Some—perhaps most—teams can afford to take "projects" in the draft. The Cardinals—at least when it comes to their quarterback situation—are not one of those teams.
I firmly believe that the Cards still have the skill to dominate a weak NFC West and go deep in the playoffs with just a few minor tweaks.
They are simply not as bad as their record suggests.
No. The Cardinals need a few players to slot into their lineup and make an immediate difference, and AJ Green is exactly that sort of player.
He has the size, speed and elite pass catching abilities which rightly draw comparison to our own Larry Fitzgerald. His vertical is practically unbelievable, and his ability to make seemingly impossible catches means he could step into any NFL line up in Week 1 and be their first or second receiving option by midseason.
The Cardinals already have a ton of projects: Dan Williams, Andre Johnson and O'Brien Schofield being the most recent of these, including two young quarterback projects in John Skelton and Max Hall.
In the draft, every pick is a luxury.
One of the biggest objections to AJ Green, seemed to be that he was viewed as a luxury pick who did not address an immediate need.
Although at one point or another every team will do it, the fact of the matter is, if you're relying on an unproven, untested rookie to come in and fix your team, then your problems run much deeper than you realize.
As much as we want to believe that a rookie QB can turn around our team, if we're honest, every draft pick is little more than a luxury, a player who you didn't have before hand.
And as much as we may hope that Locker, Newton or even Mallett can make an impact on our team, and in time, develop into elite NFL players, they are, at least at draft time, still a complete unknown.
To pass on, arguably, the most exciting player in the draft, AJ Green, because he doesn't fill an immediate need is—to my mind—foolish.
Larry Fitzgerald has suffered from more than just the lack of a good passer.
Larry Fitzgerald is fantastic, but his numbers have definitely taken a hit this year, and not just because of the constant rotation of poor quarterbacks.
I like Steve Breaston a lot. So does Fitz, but he has also been vocal about how much he misses having his old teammate Anquan Boldin lining up opposite him.
The big difference between Boldin and Breaston is that Steve Breaston became a deep threat, because people are forced to take their eyes off him and concentrate on Fitzgerald and Boldin.
Breaston still makes fantastic plays, but they could be even better if he had that little extra room, which another elite player on the field would provide him. He has dropped too many catches as a number two receiver, in no small part because he isn't playing to his strengths.
The reality is, players like Fitzgerald, Boldin and AJ Green are feared in a way that the likes of Breaston are not.
Breaston does not draw coverage as well as Boldin or Green would.
And that affects Fitzgerald. While Fitz can still make a play in double or triple coverage, his Yards-after-the-Catch—where he can really hurt opposing teams—has been much more subdued in 2010, and he shouldn't be forced to make each and every catch in heavy traffic.
Indeed, when it comes to keeping your biggest star happy, AJ Green, or someone like him, far from being a luxury, could well be a necessity.
After all, it's important to remember that Steve Breaston and Early Doucet enter 2011 as restricted free-agents, and Fitzgerald becomes an unrestricted free-agent following the end of the 2011 season. A player like Larry Fitzgerald is much more likely to re-sign with the Cardinals if he feels happy, appreciated, and does not feel like he is carrying the whole team.
A talent like Green comes around only once in a generation, and to expect another player like him to be available when the Cardinals may actually need him is a very big ask. Fitzgerald is not going to be around forever, and we need to start considering what will happen when number 11 is no longer the Cardinals go-to receiver.
If not Green, then whom?
Of course, the biggest argument for taking Green, however, is if not him, then whom?
Yes, the Cardinals need a quarterback, but do you really believe that a first year Jake Locker or Cam Newton are going to do a better job than a second year John Skelton, a proven starter like Kyle Orton or Kevin Kolb or a veteran like Marc Bulger or Donovan McNabb? I, for one, do not.
If the Cardinals organization could afford to wait three years for a quarterback to develop, then this would be a wholly different discussion, but unfortunately, they do not have that luxury.
If Kurt Warner still had a few more years in him, then there would be no reason not to take a quarterback project, but the Cardinals do not have a veteran starter on their roster. They need someone who can play at a professional level by Week 1 of 2011.
Thankfully, on the evidence of what John Skelton has done so far, he is much closer to being a starter in 2011 than the coaches had expected. Indeed he appears much closer to being ready than any rookie QB, even Andrew Luck, would be.
If Skelton is to start must be backed up by a veteran like Bulger or McNabb, but both look set to become available in the offseason.
Alternately the Cardinals could attempt to trade for a player like Kyle Orton, who—if Tim Tebow continues to develop—could be on the market next season, for perhaps as little as a mid round draft pick.
Kolb is a similar prospect, clearly unhappy playing second fiddle in Philly, and could be tempted away in a similar trade.
However, regardless of who is under center for the Cardinals, it should not be a rookie like Jake Locker or Cam Newton.
And regardless of who is passing the ball, they would do well to be passing it in the direction of AJ Green.