Right now, Georgia receiver A.J. Green is the front runner to be my number one overall NFL draft prospect. Scouts all over the country are debating between Julio Jones and Green for the best underclassman receiver prospect, and I heavily favor Green. He is much more complete player. But onto the scouting report:
Green is a physically gifted player. At 6'4, he has great size to go up and get the football, and he also provides excellent speed. He always comes across as faster on film than he is in shorts, which is a big plus for me. With the ball in his hands, he simply showcases natural change of direction skills, making him very shifty and tough to tackle. Many people say that he isn't spectacular in the weight room, but I have seen good strength from him in football pads, as he seems to be an effective blocker, and he can rip the ball out of a defenders hands (see: catch on Chris Hawkins at the 5 min 10 sec mark of the video below). He also possesses solid bulk and unbelievable body control when going up for the football.
Green also has really good hands. He tends to avoid trapping balls against his frame, which is valued highly in the NFL, and he almost never drops passes. He also probably is the best in all of college at catching the ball at its highest point. His ability to get high in the air and catch the ball in his fingertips with his incredibly long arms is shocking and he does it with unbelievable consistency. It will be a major asset to his game in the NFL.
Green has been pretty successful statistically. He missed 4 games last season due to a shoulder injury, but he still was able to get 808 receiving yards last season. Had he not missed those games, he was on pace to get 1167 yards last season, an excellent total, especially considering Georgia attempted 346 passes, 85th in the FBS (out of 120 teams). Considering the fact he was a true Sophomore, he had an excellent season last year.
Green possesses outstanding intensity when run blocking, which is a major asset to his team. He uses his size very well to drive defenders off the ball, he shows excellent toughness going over the middle for the football, and he shows that he has power to run over defenders with the football in his hands. His toughness suggests a good work ethic on and off the field.
Green is a natural big play threat with the football in his hands. He has simply outstanding speed and shiftiness that allows to score a touchdown on any play that he touches the ball. He does a good job of using head fakes and natural change of direction skills to get past defenders with the ball in his hands. He uses his size well to make catches in the end zone and he possesses excellent awareness of the sideline. He also uses his size well to power through smaller defenders and create even more yards after the catch.
Green showcases any ability to read coverage schemes well and get in good position on option routes. That skill is impressive considering his age. That skill helps him get open when running slant routes and get yards after the catch. He also has a quick first step off the line of scrimmage.
I must emphasize that Green will be a top five pick in next year's draft. Top five picks don't exactly have many weaknesses. His main weakness is a lack of quickness in and out of breaks and poor footwork when route running. I think this concern is a little overrated. As I mentioned before, Green spending time to learn opponents coverage schemes and his on field toughness suggests that he has a strong work ethic. As I also mentioned before, Green does a good job of using head fakes and his change of direction skills to create yards after the catch. I know it is a bizarre comparison, but a receiver trying to lose his man when running a route is similar to a receiver trying to evade a man trying to tackle that receiver in the open field. In each situation, the receiver uses deceptive head fakes and natural change of direction skills to try to evade an opposing defender. Green simply hasn't used these skills when route running; it just hasn't been incorporated into his game. I think it is likely that Green will improve his route running because of his work ethic, but what's undeniably is that Green has unlimited route running potential. And that's the only thing that is stopping him from being a complete player. And in 2010, I did end up seeing a major progression in his route running, making him one of the most complete players in the NCAA.
Here is a good look of Green in action:
A.J. Green's Sophomore Highlights
Overall, Green possesses a whole lot of physical upside, but I think that he also has the talent and work ethic to fix the small flaws in his game. Green's more well rounded game and better stats make him a much better player then Julio Jones, and I think we'll see more of Green in the NFL. He is a great prospect. Maybe even the best in all of next year's class.
NFL Comparison: There aren't a lot players that are similar to Green, but I will say he's Larry Fitzgerald with a little bit more speed.
Updated Scouting Report(s): Jerel Worthy