As some would attest during the months leading up to the NFL draft, I wasn’t completely on board with selecting a wide receiver in the first round. At the time my reasoning felt sound, if not flawless and honed like millions of years worth of evolution, orchestrating the perfect predator. But I’m a man that owns up to his own flaws, arguing for Patrick Peterson when in reality A.J. Green is as big a reason the Bengals are 8-6 rather than 4-10.
During a posting dated on April 6, 2011, reflecting the mock drafts between Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. on their respective mock drafts, this Josh Kirkendall pal went into a rant arguing for defensive stability over offensive beauty.
We favor Peterson in Cincinnati for two reasons.
If the Bengals surprise the entire population of man by re-signing Johnathan Joseph, Peterson could be used as a safety -- another position that's in desperate need of being addressed. And then when the Bengals elect not to bring Leon Hall back next year (with the idea that the team can't re-sign both Hall and Joseph), Peterson could move back to cornerback next year. We feel Peterson addresses a need while also be considered the best player available -- the difference between he and Green in the BPA argument is inconsequential.
Additionally, the Bengals were strong on defense during both of their playoff runs in the past decade. In 2005, it was about turnovers. In 2009, it was about overall defense. If we allow our defense to slowly break apart as we could do -- such as letting players like Brandon Johnson, Jonathan Fanene, Johnathan Joseph, Chinedum Ndukwe leave for free agency -- then no amount of offensive talent is going to help them return to the playoffs.
There's no disputing Green's talent. However if Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell resume their production the way they ended 2010, Green could easily be listed as the fourth wide receiver on the depth chart. Normally, this is good, because the team won't need to put a rookie wide receiver into the starting lineup immediately, allowing him to adjust to the NFL at a position that's often thought to have the steepest learning curve.
This is all subjective thanks to the lack of free agency this offseason where the Bengals could have had a more definitive gameplan. Such as, did Johnathan Joseph sign with another team? Could the Bengals work at upgrading a position through free agency rather than using the draft to fill gaps? What about running backs? By now we'd know if Cedric Benson and Brian Leonard are returning. No free agency is the reason we're pointing at so many positions in which the Bengals could draft replacements and upgrades.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. Though Peterson would have helped Cincinnati’s long-term defensive viability, especially in the wake of two starting cornerbacks reaching the end of their rookie contracts within a year of each other (at the time), A.J. Green has been a god. Alright, I don’t want to be over-dramatic. Seriously. Green is like Zeus sent by his father Cronus.
My chest pushed out, my ego humbled. I realized long ago that Green was the right choice, not only to give Cincinnati a chance to make the playoffs this year, but to be one of the most dynamic wide receivers this game has seen in a long time.
Not only does A.J. Green lead (or tied for the lead) amongst all NFL rookies in most major statistical categories, he leads the entire NFL with receptions over 35 yards this season (11) and Calvin Johnson is the only receiver with more 40-yard receptions. Green is four yards and six receptions shy of breaking Cris Collinsworth's franchise records with two games remaining.
Peterson is immensely talented and truly would have filled a need that this team will face in the future. But no first round draft pick fit this team better than A.J. Green.