Monday, February 21, 2011

The Case for A.J. Green

This duo has proven to be less than dynamic.
Instead of doing a straight draft profile like many others (who have much more experience scouting than I do), this will hopefully be a more comprehensive look at the Browns, their receivers, and the reasons why A.J. Green would make this team much better. To be fair, there are also reasons that the Browns should go another direction that I will also get in to.
To start with, let's take a quick look at the Browns' current situation. Last season, the Browns were 30th in the league in receiving touchdowns, with a paltry 13 scores coming from a pass. They weren't much better in receiving average, with their 10.8 yards per catch good for 26th in the league. I'm not going to beat around the bush here, that is pathetic. There are certainly attenuating circumstances, such as the revolving door at quarterback and having to deal with Jake Delhomme for half of the season. However, with two recent high draft picks being put into the receiving corps (Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie, pictured above, were second round picks in 2009) there should be more production. According to Football Outsiders' advanced statistics, the best Browns receiver was Massaquoi, who weighs in as the 72nd best wide reciever in the NFL. The only other Browns receiver listed in the top 85 is Chansi Stuckey at 82. To cheer us up a little bit, Ben Watson was ranked as the ninth-best receiving tight end by Football Outsiders. To sum up, the Browns need help here.
I think it's pretty clear that the Browns have a need at wide receiver, and it most likely can't be filled by anyone on the roster currently. In addition to our pair of second round picks, we also have Josh Cribbs, Chansi Stuckey, Carlton Mitchell, Demetrius Williams, and Jordan Norwood on the roster. I think the only player here with #1 receiver potential is Carlton Mitchell, but he is far from being a capable starter. Cribbs is an electrifying talent, but I believe his best contributions are on special teams and certain pass plays. He doesn't have the skills right now to be a #1 receiver that can attract the attention of a defense and still make plays. Massaquoi, our current #1 receiver, has a lot of talent, but he is inconsistent and could benefit from having the burden of the heaviest coverages taken away. Robiskie has not shown much of an ability to get open in his two seasons, but he could potentially find a role as a possession receiver in the Browns new West Coast offense. Adding a dynamic, talented receiver to the offense would force defenses to roll coverages away from these guys, and would also make Ben Watson and Evan Moore's jobs in the middle easier. Having defenses backed off from the line of scrimmage would also leave more running and receiving room for our second-leading receiver and all-around monster, Peyton Hillis.
Without an every-down threat to take it the distance, defenses were able to stack the box later in the season and shut down overworked Peyton Hillis. The West Coast offense is traditionally not as reliant on a vertical threat as other schemes, but it does need to keep the defense honest so they aren't continually packing the line to stop the run and prevent short passes. One way to do that is to have receivers that are capable of slipping a tackle and scoring. A West Coast offense receiver also needs to have reliable hands and good route running. These attributes are desirable in any receiver, but they are stressed more in a short passing scheme than other schemes.
This brings us to A.J. Green. He is, by most accounts, the best wide receiver prospect in this draft and some say the best since Calvin Johnson went second overall in 2007.
Well, this is getting a little longer than I intended, so stay tuned for Part 2 on Wednesday. In the second part we'll be looking more specifically at A.J. Green, as well as other receivers in this year's draft. Just to hold you over until Wednesday, here's a relevant video to whet your appetite.

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