A.J. Green likes the sound of it – NFL top-five overall draft pick.
“Oh, man, that would be a dream come true,” the former Georgia wide receiver said this week.
It can become reality today when the NFL draft begins at 8 p.m. at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
In the last 25 years, the number of wide receivers selected among the first five overall picks can be counted on two hands.
The last was Calvin Johnson in 2007. There’s also Braylon Edwards in 2005, Larry Fitzgerald in 2004 and Andre Johnson in 2003.
“I’d still have to prove myself at this level,” Green said. “It would be great to be associated with those guys.”
Green says he will be joined by his parents, uncle and girlfriend in the green room at the draft. More family, including some cousins, will be watching in the audience.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said recently that “mostly for selfish reasons,” he was hoping the Summerville, S.C., product would stick around for his senior season.
“I think he made the right decision to go,” Richt said. “It looks like he’ll be a top four or five pick, whatever it is. It’s just the cycle of life in college football. You get these great players in and the ones that are truly great, they don’t last much longer than three (years).”
Many draft projections have Green going to the Cincinnati Bengals with the No. 4 overall pick.
If the 6-foot-4, 204-pound Green isn’t a top-five pick, he’s not expected to slide past the No. 6 selection, which belongs to the Cleveland Browns.
If that’s the case, he would reteam with Mohamed Massaquoi, who mentored him back in 2008 at Georgia when Green was a freshman and Massaquoi a senior.
“I’d be real comfortable just being with him my whole freshman year,” Green said. “I learned a lot and I got my work ethic from him. It was fun to play with him.”
Getting to the Browns could be a long shot.
“A.J. Green is going to be a top-four pick,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper said.
Kiper says he thinks that Green should go first overall, but has him projected to go to the Bengals at No. 4. The National Football Post also puts Green as the draft’s top prospect.
Cincinnati receiver Chad Ochocinco tweeted earlier this month that he hoped the Bengals drafted “AJ Green or any top receiver for that matter.”
Green said he took pre-draft visits to Cincinnati, Carolina, Cleveland and Washington, which he said were less pressure -packed than interviews at the NFL combine.
“You’re walking around,” Green said. “You’re not just sitting in the middle of the room and everybody’s looking at you.”
Some receivers taken in the top five haven’t panned out. Charles Rogers (No. 2 overall in 2003) and Peter Warrick (No. 4 in 2000) are considered draft busts.
However, Green is viewed differently.
“I just think he’s so safe all the way around,” said Nolan Nawrocki, draft analyst for Pro Football Weekly. “It’s hard to find a receiver with his combination of range. He’s got an uncanny ability to make plays down the field. He’s a guy that can factor in the short to intermediate. You can really line him up wherever you want. Even with the number of quarterbacks he’s had (at Georgia) – he’s cycled through quite a few – it doesn’t matter who’s throwing to him, he’s found a way to make plays.”
That play-making element is what puts him ahead of other receivers in the draft.
Nawrocki said he would put Green in the same category as Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, and Andre Johnson, all Pro Bowl picks.
“I think he’s a special player,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “I wouldn’t bat an eye if he went four. You’re talking about a guy with length, unbelievable throwing radius, great hands. Put the Colorado game tape on and it was his first game back from suspension and he had seven catches against two NFL-quality corners. He made it look like he was back in pee-wee league.”
Former NFL coach Jon Gruden, now an ESPN analyst, said Green “just looks polished, a tremendous college football player. That’s rare if you ask me. This guy has made some amazing one-handed catches. He can get down the field and double move you. He’s good after the catch. They tell me he’s a tremendous worker and a fine young guy.”
Green’s four-game NCAA suspension for selling a bowl jersey for $1,000 to a person the NCAA considered an agent hasn’t seemed to affect his draft status. Neither has his reported score of 10 out of 50 on the Wonderlic intelligence test.
“I really don’t think it will have any bearing,” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. “From everything I’m told, it is not an issue.”
Most still expect Green will be the first receiver to have his name called tonight.
“When you study him on film,” McShay said, “he’s as savvy and football intelligent as any receiver in this class.”