ATHENS – The greatest highlight reel wide receiver in Georgia history sent three dozen NFL scouts, a dozen assistant coaches and certainly a player agent to the cardiac ward Tuesday when he tripped over a rope on the sideline after running a pass route.
“I’m OK,” A.J. Green said. “I landed on my hands.”
Right. What could possibly go wrong when a receiver trips over a rope and lands on his hands?
Green should have those mitts encased in bubble wrap. If the NFL actually plays next season, those hands will cause hysteria for opposing defensive backs (who won’t have the advantage of a rope). There is every indication that Green will be a top five draft pick, a game-changer, the rare kind of player who years from now will make every other general manager think, “Why didn’t we take him?” or “Why didn’t we trade up to take him?”
The Falcons shouldn’t be one of those teams looking back with regrets. They need to find a way to get A.J. Green.
Yes, the Falcons need help on defense. The Georgia Dome custodial staff is still sweeping up the ashes after what Aaron Rodgers did to the secondary in the playoffs. But this team also needs a significant dose of wow, and Green can provide that.
Adding an explosive weapon on offense jibes with what should be the mandate next season: Go on the attack. Make opponents fear them more. Let quarterback Matt Ryan dictate things. The season didn’t end well for Ryan against Green Bay. But we saw what happened when coach Mike Smith allowed offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey to take the handcuffs off Ryan.
He won the Cincinnati game. He won the Baltimore game. He engineered six late-game comeback victories.
The Falcons’ have struggled the past two seasons when they’ve gone bland and predictable. Green is anything but bland and predictable. Line him up opposite Roddy White, what’s a defense going to do?
It would take a lot for the Falcons to move up from 27th in the draft to get Green: at least this year’s and next year’s first-rounder pick. He’s worth it. There were 48 NFL scouts at Georgia’s Pro Day Tuesday. The only time they looked disappointed was when a bizarre league rule forced them to leave the field when Green ran pass routes.
Green and Kris Durham needed a quarterback to throw to them. But NFL rules stipulate that it had to be a draft-eligible player or someone who lives in the greater Athens area (the rule keeps players from poaching on several Pro Days). The only quarterback available was Justin Roper, who played last season at Montana but still lives in Buford. Given the circumstances, the league agreed to allow Roper to throw only if the scouts left the field. They were given the option to watch Green via an internet feed from Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. But most were upset and left, only a few staying to watch.
Green kind of laughed about it and said, “It doesn’t bother me.” He passed on the other drills, letting his scouting combine numbers stand. He looked confident and said later of his NFL aspirations: “I don’t want to be a regular receiver. I want to be mentioned with the greats.”
It says here he will be.
There was a potential red flag last week when word leaked that he scored only 10 out of a possible 50 on the Wonderlic test. The test results are weighed differently by teams. Some don’t consider it important at all.
Asked about the test score, Green said: “That didn’t bother me. I went through [only] 20 questions — I didn’t finish. I was thinking too much, and time was up at 12 minutes.”
Then came this: “If you come back here and look at my grades, I’m no dummy.”
One NFL scout in attendance agreed. “There are other ways to test IQ while taking the reading element out of it,” said the scout, requesting anonymity. “You can put him on the [white] board and find out how smart he is. But obviously, the kid can play really well. He’ll be fine.”
The numbers: Thirty-two games, 166 catches, 2,619 yards, 23 touchdowns. He’ll be better than fine. The Falcons shouldn’t let him leave the state.
By Jeff Schultz