Draft Countdown: Bengals 2011 First Round Pick

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 5: Wide receiver A.J. Green
CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 5: Wide receiver A.J. Green /

As we count down days until the 2018 draft, we will take a look at the first round pick selections by the Cincinnati Bengals over the last 10 years.

The Cincinnati Bengals selected wide receiver A.J. Green out of Georgia with the 4th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. The Bengals put together one of their worst seasons in recent memory, going 4-12 overall. Quarterback Carson Palmer demanded out of Cincinnati, forcing a trade to Oakland following the season. Aging veterans running back Cedric Benson and wide receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens did not return to the roster, either.

To initiate a full offensive reboot, the Bengals took Green, giving them an immediate impact weapon. Green, coming out of Georgia, was the definition of a “complete prospect.” All his measurables were excellent, his hands were very reliable, his route tree was refined, and he had the explosiveness to make big plays. Considering the glaring hole at WR on the roster, Green made perfect sense for the Bengals.

His rookie season, Green immediately asserted himself. Establishing himself as the number one receiver, Green totaled 65 catches for over 1,000 yards and 7 TDs. Successful NFL veterans would envy those numbers. This season, Green was more of a big play threat, evidenced by his 16.3 yards per catch, a yard longer than any other season in his career. That made sense, given the personnel on the roster. Most importantly, though, Green showed rapport with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. This connection allowed the Bengals to build their offense around those two playmakers.

Green continued to grow over the next couple seasons and became a full-fledged star. In 2012 and 2013, he topped 95 catches and 1,400 yards, adding 11 TDs each year. Those stats are elite number one wide receiver numbers. Green’s growth mirrored and likely sparked, the development of the offense as a whole. Dalton continued to improve, and tight end Jermaine Gresham had two great seasons. The Bengals also added Mohammed Sanu and Marvin Jones to the WR core, taking some of the pressure off of Green. In both seasons, the Bengals made the playoffs.

Following two more fantastic 1,000+ yard seasons, the Bengals’ offense took a step back. While Green himself did not regress, the loss of Sanu and Jones forced him to take on a lot of the WR responsibility on the team. The stunted growth of running back Jeremy Hill did not help Green, either. Green actually had a blazing start to 2016 but got hurt 10 games into the season. He didn’t play the rest of the year. This injury, unfortunately, broke his record streak of 5 consecutive 1,000+ yard seasons to start a career.

In 2017, Green had a disappointing year overall, but only relative to expectation. He still totaled over 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns but found himself not quite making a consistent impact on games. Dalton was not a particularly big help to Green last season, but some of that responsibility falls on Green as well. Teams often double-teamed Green, but he even struggled in man coverage against elite corners (see: Jalen Ramsay, Jacksonville). While Green had a respectable year in 2017, there is room for improvement this year.

Next: Could Bengals grab Ronnie Harrison in the second round

When reflecting on this pick, it is hard not to imagine what this pick could’ve been had the Bengals not taken A.J. Green. Would they have made the playoffs five years in a row? Would Dalton have ever become the QB he is today? Would they have had a dynamic playmaker like Green at all? Odds are, no. A.J. Green has become an elite NFL player – not just wide receiver – and represents one of the best drafts picks in Bengals’ history. It would be absolutely stunning if Green is not a Hall of Famer after he retires.