The case for (and against) A.J. Green
Wide receiver A.J. Green has been the object of affection for many Browns fans since, oh, last October. He's the guy many draftniks have going to the Bengals at No. 4 overall in their mock drafts. I feel pretty safe saying he won't go No. 1 overall, but there are about seven other teams in the top 10 that will at least discuss taking Green.
Will he land in Ohio? Is he the best fit? Let's explore the positives and negatives for both the Bengals at No. 4 and Browns at No. 6 when laying out their draft plans and evaluating Green.
WHY THE BENGALS SHOULD TAKE HIM
The Bengals certainly could use a big-time receiver, and Green is near the top of many draft boards for a reason. The Bengals have lots of needs but inserting Green immediately into the lineup might be the best way for the Bengals to immediately re-energize an offense that needs a boost. It sure seems like Marvin Lewis and Carson Palmer both are in a quick-fix situation, and Green is probably the guy atop this draft who's most ready to help in 2011. Drafting him would help chart the future, too. Planet Chad is hour-to-hour on many levels and not getting any younger, and though the young receivers showed some flashes late last season, they aren't scaring many opposing defenses. Matter of fact, there's no guarantee that bunch is better than the bunch the Browns currently have. With the uncertainty throughout the organization and at the game's most important position, an investment in Green would be a investment in re-directing Carson Palmer to the right track. Even if by some slim chance Palmer isn't the Bengals' quarterback the next two years, Green would provide a pretty good start for Ryan Mallett or whoever else takes over. A lineup of Green, Jermaine Gresham, possibly Chad and some combination of Andre Caldwell, Jordan Shipley and Jerome Simpson looks really good on paper and really tough to defend in a division that has three other teams all needing to fill long-terms need in the secondary. There's a fit here, but it's never easy to predict what the Bengals might do.
WHY THE BENGALS SHOULD NOT TAKE HIM
Do you want a young receiver in whom you've invested millions around Planet Chad? More than that, don't the Bengals have more pressing needs? An aging and underachieving defense sure could use a young, talented playmaker up front. Regardless of what happens with Palmer in the short term, the Bengals need to develop a young quarterback and don't plan to be in position to draft this high again anytime soon. There is enough talent on the roster at the receiver position to make the Bengals think they might be on to something with Simpson, Caldwell and Shipley, and there's not a lot of reason to think Mike Brown would trade Chad. History says the Bengals won't be scared of the questions surrounding Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, and both of those guys make sense. Unless the Bengals are convinced Green can become Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald, addressing other needs makes sense in the big picture.
WHY THE BROWNS SHOULD TAKE HIM
You've seen that receiving corps, right? And you've probably seen Green's highlight reel, too. The Browns believe in Green's abilities, believe he's too good to still be around with the sixth pick and will be awfully tempted to take him if he is. An offense that's devoid of home-run hitters and a team pushing its chips all-in on young quarterback Colt McCoy would be wise to get McCoy a new best friend and let them grow together. There's reason to believe Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie have at least a little bit of upside, and making Green the No. 1 receiver would allow those guys better opportunities to get open and give the Browns a chance to both stretch the field and spread the ball around. Head Honcho Mike Holmgren is an offensive guy, new coach Pat Shurmur is going to call his own plays and both know that if Green can be the type of player most of his college tape suggests he can, the Browns' offense will be better both immediately and for years to come.
WHY THE BROWNS SHOULD NOT TAKE HIM
You've seen that defense, right? Gone is Eric Mangini's plan to build the smartest, slowest defense in the Facemask Era and in is a 4-3 base defense that needs pass rushers, run-stoppers, at least two young linebackers and long-term answers in the secondary. It needs bodies, too. The Browns don't have many defensive linemen on the roster and they're not getting re-aligned to the NFC West anytime soon. GM Tom Heckert's track record says he should and will go defense first and address the receiver need(s) later, and the West Coast Offense Shurmur and Holmgren operate doesn't necessarily need a true No. 1 receiver. Is any offense better with a guy like Green? Sure. But the Browns not only will have to be absolutely sure that Green can be an elite NFL receiver but also think that he's The Pick. They're not looking at a one-year fix and they are looking at a steep uphill climb in one of the league's most rugged and talented divisions. Besides the fact that Green might be gone before they pick, the smart(er) play for the Browns is to start this new era with a defensive playmaker.