We didn’t have him ranked that highly in our Fantasy Football Rankings 2011, expecting NFL free agent signings would change the landscape of fantasy football. Plus, there were more than enough NFL rumors going around that Carson Palmer could still be traded and that the NFL free agency would bring in a veteran passer to Cincinnati.
When reviewing the Bengals in our 2011 NFL predictions, we looked at the situation and determined there was a true sleeper candidate in Cincy.
A big part of anyone’s fantasy football draft strategy is to find that sleeper that will take them over the top and The Sports Cannon thinks we may have just found your 2011 version of Brandon Lloyd.
A.J. Green won't go unnoticed in your fantasy football draft, but at a relatively low ADP around the beginning of the eighth round he is definitely a steal. We usually aren’t hot on rookie wide receivers, expecting them to make their jumps in their sophomore years. Green, on the other hand, is the exception to that rule.
Already considered an elite player by his teammates on the defense, Green has shown flashes of talent that may rival any big name receiver to wear a Bengals jersey. It’s not like the Bengals have all that much skill in the secondary—especially now that Jonathan Joseph is a Texan—but Green has already shown he is not the typical rookie.
Green looked to be the top dog in a young and promising group of receivers when he was drafted fourth overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Before he even put on pads, the Cincinnati faithful were considering Green to be their lone offensive stud.
Even the Bengals Head Coach, Marvin Lewis, considers Green to already be a star. It could have been a shot at former receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, but Lewis isn’t the only one to think that. All media reports coming out of Cincinnati are that Green may have also picked up the new offense as quickly as any receiver on the roster.
Green may be a rookie, but no other receiver on the roster has much more experience in the NFL. The Bengals current number two receiver is Jerome Simpson who has played in a total of 13 games and the expected slot receiver, Jordan Shipley, was used sparingly during his rookie season last year.
Simpson has been getting better each day in training camp and has shown the ability to stretch the field when defenders have keyed on Green. Don’t take that as a knock against Green. Instead, consider that to be a plus.
Green no doubt has the most athleticism and the best set of hands on the team. If defenders are worried about Simpson going deep, it will allow more opportunities for Green underneath, making his value in a PPR league even greater.
The only concern we have with Green so far is the way the youngster will cope with a rookie quarterback and a West Coast offense. There have been some concerns over false starts so far this offseason and there have been a few occasions when the quarterback and his receivers have not looked to be on the same page.
Make no mistake, the Bengals will be a run first team in 2011. Cedric Benson could run the ball nearly 350 times this season meaning no receiver on the offense will be fantasy’s best.
The Bengals’ offensive line is in the middle of the pack though, so rookie quarterback Andy Dalton isn’t going to be in the worst situation when the team does pass the ball. It will take time for the youngsters on the offense to get accustomed to playing with each other after this shortened preseason. By years end, however, we should have a good understanding on what the Bengals’ offense will look like in the future.
Green should see his stats jump up as the season progresses, but even in the beginning weeks he will be the top target in passing situations. Green is currently being drafted around the 30th receiver taken in leagues across the Internet. That means he is being drafted behind the likes of Michael Crabtree, Malcom Floyd and even Julio Jones.
We know that the quarterback situation is murky, but don’t forget the immense talent Green possesses and the lack of proven pass catchers around him.
Be safe and grab Green in the seventh round, you may have to pass up Jones, Crabtree, Floyd or Pierre Garcon but it will be worth it at years end when Green helps you win games and represents a nice keeper option.
See all of our fantasy football sleepers 2011 here.