Fantasy Reaction: A.J. Green Signs with the Arizona Cardinals
It seems like The Fantasy Footballers have been debating whether or not AJ Green is D-U-N for years now. The guys will now have a front-row seat to make their decision, as Green signed with their hometown Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals inked Green, who will turn 34 years old this season, to a 1-year, $6 million deal. There are plenty of questions about his ability and how the Cardinals will use him, so let’s answer what we can.
Perfectly Aged or Well D-U-N?
From 2011-2017, Green was one of the best WRs in the game, no real debate to be had there. An injury in 2018 sidelined a then 30-year-old Green for seven games but that was after he had already scored six TDs in just nine games. Concerning but not quite a red-flag. Then another injury, combined with a contract dispute, took away his entire 2019 and alarms sounded everywhere. This was when doubt started to creep in about the aging wideout.
Father Time is undefeated and it seemed that AJ Green was losing that battle. Green returned in 2020 but to a very new-look Bengals team. Andy Dalton was gone, replaced by rookie Joe Burrow. He also had to compete with an improved Tyler Boyd and an electrifying rookie, Tee Higgins, for looks. The result was not so pretty. Green was 3rd on the team in targets but still saw 104 balls thrown his way. He only reeled in 47 of those passes for just 523 yards, two TDs, and a WR68 finish. There is some debate over how much blame to put on Green vs Burrow for that horrible catch rate, but no matter how you slice it, he certainly did not look like vintage AJ Green.
If The Scheme Fits
It seems clear that the Cardinals are not getting the Alpha-WR1 of days past…but they don’t need that, they have it already. DeAndre Hopkins is one of, if not the best WR in the entire NFL. He is going to lead this team in just about every receiving category, he just needs someone to take away some of the triple coverage he gets from game to game. Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald were unable to that last year, as Hopkins scored just six TDs, his fewest in four seasons.
The questions will be: how will they deploy Green? Will they put him on the outside and move Kirk to the slot? Where does that leave Larry Fitzgerald, assuming he does not retire? Could Green move to the slot, much like the Cardinals did with Fitzgerald years ago? Two years ago, Arizona ran a ton of 4-WR sets, with their top four WRs all playing at least 35 snaps-per-game. Last year, they leaned on 3-WRs, with Hopkins, Kirk, and Fitzgerald all registering more than 55 (FIFTY-FIVE!!!) snaps-per-game. Basically, there should be plenty of work to go around, but does Green still have the ability to take advantage of it?
Dynasty Outlook: 2021 & Beyond
In redraft, Green’s own value will come down to where he is taken in fantasy drafts. He feels more like a lottery ticket than any sort of safe pick. If you have to draft him higher than your fantasy team’s WR4, he is probably not worth the risk. The addition of Green, depending on how they use him, should make a positive impact on both Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. Murray can obviously use all of the weapons he can get and if Green can draw even a little bit of the defense’s attention away from Hopkins, Nuk will destroy one-on-one coverage.
Of all of the free-agent signings thus far, Green may have the smallest impact in dynasty. Murray benefits from having a new toy to play with but his value is likely at its peak right now and Green doesn’t move the needle much. The same can be said for DeAndre Hopkins. Christian Kirk has been a perennial disappointment, which is why Green is here in the first place. The biggest loser from this signing is Jeff Janis, I mean, Andy Isabella. Isabella has a cult-like (Janis-like?) following among fantasy analysts but has done nothing in his first two seasons to earn the hype. He will be relegated to situational play, yet again. Green himself has little to no dynasty value, outside of a one-year rental. You can check how The Ballers value him in the new UDK+Dynasty Pass, where the guys give their dynasty rankings for the first time ever.