AJ Green has had more injuries and a decline in production in the past few years. While his time as an elite receiver is over, he could have a positive effect on the Arizona Cardinals.
Football players have an age cliff where their performance drops off at a certain point. Many think that it is in the late 20s, but actually, they can stay productive into their early 30s. Fantasy Pros completed a study on wide receivers using data for the last 12 years, and discovered that production drops off after age 32, as only 3 out of 60 have had a top 12 finish. AJ Green is now 32, so will he buck the trend?
Perception of AJ Green
AJ Green has been considered an elite receiver up until injuries really started to take a toll in 2018. Green finished in the top 15 among receivers in five of his first seven years in the NFL, with two of his first three years a top four WR. Green missed all of 2019 and, in 2020, had one of the least efficient years of his career. He has moved on to play for the Arizona Cardinals in 2021 and, even with an up and coming offense and a young elite QB, there is not much optimism.
— Brandon Haye (@hayeb3) April 2, 2021
Full Season But not the Same
Green played a full season in 2020 for the first time in three years and only the fifth time in 10 years. According to PlayerProfiler, he finished inside the top 32 in the NFL in targets with 104, but only 108th in catches with a rate of 45.2%.
Green still led the NFL in contested catches, but many think that it is because of his lack of separation against defenders. Looking at the rankings for all the Bengals’ receivers, the lack of separation may have been a result of the offense having a rookie QB.
fair point, Bengals receivers in 2020 average yards of separation:
– AJ Green: 1.7 (158th)
– Tee Higgins: 2.5 (139th)
– Tyler Boyd: 2.7 (120th)
except for one man:
– Drew Sample: 3.9 (8th)
— Tyler (@deGromsBurner) March 23, 2021
Green does not make the consistent tough catches he made in the past, but he still can have good games and fantasy value. In 2020, he had seven games where he totaled double-digit fantasy points in PPR. While Green does not show the ability to get yards after the catch anymore, he can still put up solid numbers — his best game was against the Colts with eight catches on 11 targets and 96 yards.
#AZCardinals WR AJ Green Week 6 (@ Colts)
Separation was hard to come by but Green made a lot of tough catches in tight coverage.
At 1:14, ball is underthrown but Green should've high pointed it. Had the CB beat. Don't wait for it to drop into your hands.
1:34, toe drag swag pic.twitter.com/pvaI75P7mt
— Andy Kwong (@akwong31) March 28, 2021
Arizona Cardinals Outlook for 2021
Look Back at the 2020 Offense
The addition of DeAndre Hopkins helped the Cardinals offense improve from 21st to sixth in the NFL in yards per game. Kyler Murray was very happy to have a true go-to receiver, and utilized him to 30% of the target share in 2020. Even with the improved offense, there was still room for improvement as the Cardinals finished only 14th in points per game and 10th in red zone scoring percentage.
Hopkins has shown it does not matter who his QB is, and that didn’t change in 2020. He went over 1,000 yards for the sixth time in eight years and had his best catch percentage of his career at 71.9%. Green’s arrival will not affect Hopkins’ target share and he will continue to be the focal point of the offense, drawing the best corner of the opposing defense.
In the red zone, this could lead to more TDs for Hopkins as Green provides another contested receiver when the field shortens inside the 20. Hopkins is a consistent performer and should be drafted as a top 10 receiver in all formats.
In 2020, Kirk had a career-high in touchdowns, but his targets decreased from 2019 due to the arrival of Hopkins. Kirk only lined up in the slot on 11% of snaps in 2020, but the arrival of Green should allow Kirk to move back to the slot for more snaps. With another weapon, he can focus in the slot where he should have more favorable matchups and can take advantage of his deep targets, where he ranked 25th in the NFL last year. Kirk will continue to be inconsistent week to week, but will have boom weeks, and would be best for Best Ball or as a flex fill-in.
So the big question is can Green stay healthy and still make an impact? Will the move to a better team change his motivation? With his signing, it looks as if Larry Fitzgerald may be retiring which would mean the Cardinals are getting a veteran five years younger.
Green could take those 70 targets and improve on the numbers, as he had twice the yards per target as Fitzgerald last year. Green will look to be another possession receiver and could be an option in the red zone, instead of a tight end. His days of being elite are likely over, but being a high-end WR3 is still possible.
I think the addition of Green will benefit Kyler the most. This past year, Kyler improved in almost every passing category, but the offense really lost momentum when he started to be dinged up. With Green, there is an upgrade in the second passing option which should allow for another security blanket.
With another option, less running may be needed and could help prevent injury. As mentioned earlier, Green will also help Kyler even more inside the 20 and could elevate the offense from 14th in the NFL in scoring. In all formats, Kyler should be drafted as a top three QB.
I believe AJ Green still has some left in the tank and can make an impact for the Cardinals in the next couple of years. He is not going to be an every-week starter, but will help the offense and could help make Kyler even more efficient.
Hopkins ⇔No Change
Kirk ⇑Small Uptick from Last Season
Green ⇔More efficient but Similar Production to last year
Kyler Murray ⇑ Stock Increase. More efficient, especially inside the 20.