2011 Draft Profiles: A.J. Green

A.J. Green can go up and get balls that others simply cannot. Getty Images

When first-time head coach Mike Tice set off on his maiden voyage with the Minnesota Vikings in 2002 -- a trip that, pardon the pun, ultimately involved more hull-patching than plundering -- one of his moves was the development of a concept he called "The Randy Ratio."

Like most football concepts based on appeasement, it failed.

The idea was this: to satisfy Randy Moss' need for the football (and because he was pretty good about catching anything thrown his way), the Vikings would try to toss him the ball on 40 percent of pass plays. But, as the New York Times noted a year later:

    "This approach backfired because the offense was not balanced enough. Defenses double-teamed Moss, pressured a patchwork offensive line and forced [Daunte] Culpepper into turnovers."

That, and studies show that publicly announcing your intents regarding play selection can have a tendency to aid your opponent in preparation.

A.J. Green, the 6-foot-4, 207-pound wide receiver entering his junior year for the Georgia Bulldogs, has been compared to Randy Moss for years, and he's just 21. Really. Consider that when Green was 16, Sports Illustrated compared him to Moss in a story in which Green said, "Everybody's always said I'm just like him."

Sort of.

Green, who is a spitting image of Moss physically -- same height, nearly identical weight -- has routinely faced double-teams since he arrived in Athens, but he's learned at a younger age than Moss that worrying about his proper ratio won't do much.

"He knows defenses have been and will be structured to stop him," says Bulldogs wide receivers coach Tony Ball. "And as coaches, we have to both understand that and take advantage of it."

So while Green hasn't put up startling numbers in his two years at Georgia -- 963 yards and eight TDs in 2008, 808 yards and six TDs (in 10 games) in 2009 -- he's more concerned now about refining a game that will make his ratio a part of a Sunday game plan.

"That's why I came to Georgia," Green says. "I knew I was going into a pro-style offense," one in which Mark Richt's Bulldogs emphasize balance and aren't just spreading out wideouts from a shotgun formation. "But that's what I wanted, and when I get to the NFL, I won't be completely blind in [terms of] what I'm seeing from the defense."

He's also faced many of the best defensive backs in the college game, all of whom he'll face again on Sundays. He's had showdowns with Kareem Jackson and Javier Arenas from the Alabama Crimson Tide and Janoris Jenkins and Joe Haden from the Florida Gators, and he counts Patrick Peterson of the LSU Tigers -- himself a likely first-round pick next April -- as the toughest DB he's faced.

And you can forgive Green for saying "when" in regard to Sunday. NFL personnel folks have known him since he walked on campus, and top draft analysts all have him rated as the top wide receiver option in the coming draft class to start the 2010 season.

Which is why, for now, it's all about refinement.

Last week, Green was in Athens working on routes with none other than Matthew Stafford, who threw to Green before landing with the Detroit Lions as the No. 1 pick in 2009's NFL draft.

"He's different now," Green says. "He's got more touch and isn't trying to throw everything right through you."

"Now it's time for A.J. to become a technician at route execution," Ball says.

"Coach Ball is really trying to polish my game all over," Green says. "I'm concentrating now on footwork, hands, really dropping my hips -- I thought I could run it all well, but we're still trying to add tools to my toolbox."

This is one of the issues in evaluating big receivers at the college level; so often, big receivers are constantly used as deep threats -- or are the bail-out jump ball options for quarterbacks, and have to relearn the intermediate routes that dominate the NFL passing game, where significant time in the pocket can never be assumed.

For every Calvin Johnson or Brandon Marshall who has found a way to turn what was a "deep ball" mentality in college into production all over on Sundays, there's a Charles Rogers or Mike Williams. Good route-running in the NFL is like being able to change speeds as a pitcher in baseball. Any team can react to pure speed; it's the nuanced change of pace, an explosion here, a Bugs Bunny stop there, that undoes a great corner.

Green, who played both sides of the ball in high school, says, "I don't look for the double-team," but instead worries about the first man he has to beat. If you try to beat both from the outset, "it messes up your route."

Sort of like Randy Moss -- at least the Moss whose game eventually did all the talking. "I'll always like Moss," Green says. He laughs. The comparison, the references, the questions -- Randy's been with him for a while.

Just not the ratio.

Chris Sprow is a general editor for ESPN Insider. You can find his complete online archives here, or follow him on Twitter.