A couple of weeks back, the question was posed as to who was more valuable to the Bengals, wide receiver A.J. Green or defensive tackle Geno Atkins. The debate raged back and forth, but at the end of the day, no true consensus emerged--Green received 238 votes in his favor while Atkins garnered 233 votes. It was simply too close to call. And there's an easy explanation for that: both players are amongst the best in the league at their respective positions.
It's like trying to argue whether Han Solo is better than Indiana Jones. You can't lose either way you go.
But it's one thing to compare players at different positions, where statistical vagaries and scheme assignments make outright comparisons tricky, and another thing entirely to compare players at the same position (where it's more of a Han Solo-Lando Calrissian dynamic). So why bring up this discussion on comparisons at all? Because the fine folks over at NFL.com decided to create a mass ranking of wide receivers heading into the 2013 season, and the Bengals' own A.J. Green figures to finish near the top of such a list.
How close to the top?
Well, according to Chris Wesseling, Green comes in as the number three receiver of 2013, just behind Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. Surprised? I doubt it. Anyone who has watched Green during his first two years in the league knows the kid is a special talent. And coming into the 2013 season at just 24-years-old, Green's reign of defensive back terror is just beginning.
As it stands right now, from a purely talent-oriented perspective, the sky is the limit for Green. He has all the tools you could possibly want in a wide receiver and also possesses an elite combination of height, weight, and speed. From an actual football perspective, however, the progression--or possible lack thereof--of quarterback Andy Dalton will be the true determining factor for Green in 2013. Outside of the Bengal's playoff game against Houston in which Green was conspicuously absent from the first half gameplan, the team has generally shown a willingness to loft it deep, but Dalton's execution has often left something to be desired. If Dalton can bring some of those throws in from the sideline and give Green more of a fighting chance, then Green could easily eclipse his already impressive 11 touchdown effort from 2012.
With improved quarterback play and the continuation of his own progression, Green could soon replace Johnson and Fitzgerald as the best in the league. And he's only halfway through his rookie deal.
As the great Dion Sanders once said: "Pay the man!"