A.J. Green: The NFL’s best wide receiver?

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Dec 6, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) catches a reception for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 6, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) catches a reception for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports /
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If anyone were to start a franchise with a player under 30 years old, A.J. Green would be a top 10 candidate from any team, let alone just the Cincinnati Bengals.

While he’s a forgotten man among the NFL’s premier wide receivers, A.J. Green is still one of the best pass-catchers in the business. Putting up 1,000+ yards receiving in each of his first five seasons, Green has proven to be one of the league’s most—if not the most—consistent and reliable pass-catchers.

Green fell off the radar in 2014, missing several games due to injury yet still hauling in 69 passes for 1,041 yards and a career-low six touchdowns. Many people began to label him as injury-prone, yet he had (and still has) only missed one game from any season, outside of 2014.

Only Green and Randy Moss have recorded five straight 1,000-yard seasons to open a career, and Green’s quarterback, Andy Dalton, is one of two quarterbacks—along with Peyton Manning—to open a career with five straight 3,000-yard passing seasons. Dalton’s success has largely been due to Green, who is a rare receiver who has been his team’s top receiving option from his rookie year on.

In his first five seasons, Green has totaled incredibly impressive numbers: 415 catches, 6,171 yards and 45 touchdowns. You can’t get much better than that.

In 2011, many people—ESPN experts, included—predicted that Cincinnati would finish 0-16. But Green’s consistent success against opposing team’s top corners overcame the Bengals’ lack of a running game and weak quarterback play, ultimately guiding the Bengals to a 9-7 finish and a playoff berth.

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Now that Andy Dalton has established himself as a franchise quarterback, people won’t credit Green for playing with a weak quarterback and receiving corps in his first four seasons, but don’t be mistaken—he’s a game-changer, and the Bengals wouldn’t be the team they are without him. Among all NFL wide receivers, only Green,

Calvin Johnson

,

Larry Fitzgerald

and

DeAndre Hopkins

have been able to overcome such circumstances.

The 27-year-old receiver has been elected to five Pro Bowls and helped his team make the playoffs in every season he’s been around. With Calvin Johnson retiring, there’s a very strong argument that A.J. Green is the best wide receiver in football.

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He may not have the yards-after-catch skills of Antonio Brown, physical explosiveness of Dez Bryant or speed of DeSean Jackson, but Green is far and away the most elusive outside receiver in football. He frequently has the awareness to cut inside of safeties as soon as he comes down with the catch, toasting them en route to long touchdowns. Green’s deceptive speed, great leaping ability, explosive cuts and underrated awareness make him one of the NFL’s best. And given his current trajectory, the Bengals receiver could eventually be a Hall of Famer.

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