Sure, this table isn’t perfectly accurate. Antonio Brown was not a full-time starter during his rookie season, so it’s a little unfair to include his rookie year in this table. And Brown’s real production didn’t come until 2013.
Then again, A.J. Green had to deal with a rookie quarterback, a subpar offensive line and consistent double coverage as a rookie and was still able to surpass 1,000 yards. Remember, Cincinnati was coming off of a 4-12 season and was supposed to be the NFL’s worst team in 2011. Enter Dalton and Green, and somehow, the duo takes Cincinnati to the playoffs. So although it is a bit unfair to include Brown’s rookie year, Green has dealt with more difficult circumstances than making his way up an NFL depth chart.
Dec 7, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium. The Steelers won 42-21. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
And although I’m not an Andy Dalton hater, I still have to say that it’s very impressive that A.J. Green has put up 1,000+ yard seasons in every year he’s played with the Red Rifle.
That being said, Brown is at the bottom of every statistical category listed on the table. What stands out to me that isn’t pictured on this table is that Brown’s longest catch of 2014 went for 63 yards. That’s incredibly short for a receiver who gained over 1,600 yards in a season. In fact, Brown has never even recorded an 80-yard reception! Green has recorded two, one of those coming against the Steelers last season.
People praise A.B. for his ability to gain yards after the catch–and rightfully so–but if Brown was really the expert YAC master, you’d figure that he’d be able to gain 80 yards on a single play at least once in his five-year career. Don’t get me wrong; Antonio Brown is a great, nay, an elite receiver, but I need to see more than two seasons worth of production before calling someone the best receiver in the NFL.
That’s why I didn’t call Josh Gordon the best receiver in the NFL after his 2013 season and why I won’t call Odell Beckham Jr. the best receiver in the NFL after just twelve games of production. Brown had one of the greatest receiving seasons of all time, but so did Josh Gordon.
If Antonio Brown records at least 1,400 yards next season and A.J. can’t overcome his injury issues, we will be having a different conversation. But right now, Brown has put together two good seasons in five years pro. I need more convincing.
A.J. Green, right now, is still (in my eyes) the second-best receiver in football, after Calvin Johnson. Sure, Dez Bryant is a touchdown-scoring machine. But Dez disappears for quarters–or even games–at a time, while Green is steadily consistent. And although Green is often forgotten because he endured a couple of injuries in 2014, he still recorded over 1,000 yards receiving and six touchdowns in what was essentially just eleven games. In comparison, Green had only 552 yards receiving less than Julio Jones (who played five games more than Green) while scoring just as many touchdowns (six) as the Falcons wideout.
Without a question, A.J. Green (as of now) is a better receiver than Antonio Brown. Brown, like Green, is an incredible receiver. He has incredible on-field abilities and is able to defy his physical limitations to the point that he is considered by many (including myself) an elite NFL receiver. As a Bengals fan, I wish I didn’t have to watch Antonio Brown play Cincinnati twice a year; I get scared every time I see him take the field. That being said, I’m just as excited to see A.J. take the field as I am fearful to see A.B. take it.
It will certainly be exciting to see these two receivers develop and look back at this article a year from now, reflecting on how these players have exceeded my expectations or fallen short of them. And although A.J. wasn’t signed to a long-term deal as soon as I had hoped he would, Cincinnati still needs to sign Green to a deal; he is the most talented player on Cincy’s roster and is well-deserving of an extension. Plus, the market is now set for wide receivers, since Dez Bryant signed his extension.