A.J. Green is undoubetbly the Cincinnati Bengals’ best player. He’s been an annual participant in the Pro Bowl, ranks among the top five receivers in the NFL and has topped 1,000 in yards in five out of six of his NFL seasons.
He’s fun to watch, he’s humble, and he’s under contract in Cincinnati through the 2019 season. That means we have many more years of enjoying Green in Bengals stripes.
There’s no sign of Green slowing down, in fact, he was on pace for his best-ever season before going down with a hamstring injury in Week 11 of the 2016 season. But could another Bengal top him as the team’s best player?
Pro Football Focus has made its picks for every NFL team’s best player and every team’s young player who could overtake that top player. For the Bengals, PFF named Green the best player (he had an 89.4 PFF grade last year and has an 82.2 grade overall for his career) and William Jackson III the young contender to overtake Green as the Bengals’ best player, as soon as 2017.
Best Player: A.J. Green – WR
A.J. Green is one of the league’s most dominant receivers. Injury robbed him of a career year in 2016, but in the time he was on the field he gained 2.86 yards per route run, which trailed only Julio Jones (3.12) among wide outs.
Young Contender: William Jackson III – CB
Cincinnati’s top rookie a year ago suffered an injury and never saw the field in year one, but in his final college season he allowed just 47.4 percent of passes thrown his way to be caught, and tallied five interceptions and 13 pass breakups from the 97 targets sent his way. He has high-end playmaking ability and the size and speed that NFL teams covet at the position, and could still provide a huge impact once recovered to full health.
Jackson has yet to play a snap in the NFL after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in his rookie training camp last year. He’s currently fully healthy and looking to make it through training camp and onto the field in 2017. The problem is, he’s buried on the depth chart, despite having loads of potential (as PFF points out). Jackson is one of four first round cornerbacks on the Bengals’ roster and the veterans of that group, Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick are expected to start this season. Jackson will challenge for Jones’ role and if the embattled cornerback is suspended (which he may be), Jackson could get a few starts this year. Though, there’s also 2014 first round pick Darqueze Dennard, who’s fighting for playing time and is theoretically ahead of Jackson on the depth chart heading into training camp.
As this point, we have to hope the Bengals’ coaches allow the best cornerbacks on the roster to start and if that doesn’t include Jackson, that he has opportunities to develop his talent, learn and eventually earn the ability to see the field.
It’s going to be fun to see what Jackson is capable of. If he comes anywhere close to being as good of a player as Green that would be amazing news for the Bengals and the team’s fans.
Do you believe WJ3 will one day be the Bengals’ best player?
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