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AFC North Q&A: Is A.J. Green the best receiver in the AFC North?

6/25/2015
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Is Green the best receiver in the AFC North?

ESPN NFL Insider Dan Graziano discusses whether or not A.J. Green is the best wide receiver in the AFC North.

Today's question: The AFC North lost some quality receivers in Josh Gordon and Torrey Smith, but standout receivers remain in Antonio Brown, A.J. Green and Steve Smith. Who's the best?

Jeremy Fowler, Pittsburgh Steelers: Green looks like the best receiver, and often plays like one. But the two-year performance Pittsburgh’s Brown just put together gives him the overall edge on Green. Averaging nearly 120 catches and 1,600 yards since 2013 is absurd. Perhaps Green could post similar numbers if Ben Roethlisberger were his quarterback, but that’s hardly a guarantee. Green is an enormous talent, easily a top-three-to-five receiver. But he struggles with certain matchups, averaging 32.5 yards per game in his past four games against Browns cornerback Joe Haden. Brown has 30 straight games with at least 50 receiving yards. I’d take that consistency over Green’s raw ability and playmaking. Green is entering a contract year, so don’t be surprised if he becomes the AFC North’s best after 2015. He’s too pure of a receiver to be down for long when healthy.

Jamison Hensley, Baltimore Ravens: Yes, and that’s a big compliment considering Brown has caught 36 more passes than anyone else in the NFL over the past two seasons. But you can’t discount the quarterbacks throwing them the ball. Green’s production would be significantly better if he were catching passes from a more accurate quarterback. Before last season, Football Outsiders indicated that Andy Dalton hit Green in the chest less than 45 percent of the time (the league average was 50 percent) and Green caught 38 percent of his passes on throws above his neck. You can make an argument that Green is the most gifted receiver in the NFL. He’s also clutch. Against the Ravens, I watched Green tie a game in 2013 on a 51-yard Hail Mary grab and then beat them in 2014 on a 77-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. He’s a special player.

Pat McManamon, Cleveland Browns: No, but he’s awful close. Trying to determine who is better between Green and Brown is like debating LeBron James and Steph Curry. Both are great, for different reasons. Green is immensely talented. He can go after any ball, and usually get it. He has great hands, runs great routes and is a tremendous player. But by his standards he had an off season in 2014, missing three games and catching 69 passes for "just" 1,041 yards (numbers comparable to his rookie season). Brown was sensational, leading the league with 129 receptions for 1,698 yards. Right now, Brown is the better player.