After a rookie year that catapulted the Bengals into the playoffs and put him in the Pro Bowl, receiver A.J. Green is heading towards superstardom. Earlier this week, the folks at ESPN released their top ten list of NFL wide receivers, and Green was ranked at No.9. Though some may have felt that is a bit low, it's can also be viewed as a pretty fair assessment for a player who has only been in the league for one season.
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com is a former scout and he recently wrote a creative wide receiver list himself. He uses the upcoming Summer Olympics to create something he titles "The NFL Podium Awards", playing off of the medal presentations during the summer games. Jeremiah mentions Green in a very favorable light.
Placing him as the "Bronze Medal Winner" of NFL wide receivers, he has Green as the third best NFL player at his position. Of Green and his selection as his Bronze Medal Winner, Jeremiah says:
I'm sure this selection will raise some eyebrows. There are up to a dozen candidates who qualify for this spot, but I believe Green will outperform them all in 2012. After being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, the Georgia product faced lofty expectations. He exceeded them all with the performance in his rookie campaign. He helped lead the Bengals to the playoffs by grabbing 65 balls for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns. He also averaged 16.3 yards per catch. Green was rewarded for his success by being named to the Pro Bowl; he was the first rookie wide receiver to earn that honor since Anquan Boldin was selected in 2003. He is a rare talent, and I fully expect him to be the top receiver in the AFC for a long time.
Notice the last sentence where Jeremiah uses a "the" instead of an "a" when talking about Green being the best in the AFC. It's a big title that Green will have to fill, but there's no doubt that he has the talent. He'll have to follow up his outstanding rookie campaign with another solid 2012 season to cement that title, and he's more than capable. It's pretty telling how talented Green really is when a former NFL scout heaps this type of praise on him.
He'll have to have some help, though. Second-year quarterback Andy Dalton has to avoid the "sophomore slump", the running game will need to improve significantly, and he'll have to have a steady threat besides himself for defenses to key on. Regardless, it appears that Bengals fans aren't alone in expecting big things from Green in 2012.
Finishing ahead of Green in this "Medal Race" was the Lions' Calvin Johnson, AKA "Megatron", and Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald. Not bad company.