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Spotlight: Shonn Greene

posted by Steve Holloway on Jul 8th

Steve Holloway's thoughts

Setting the Stage

Shonn Greene played high school football in New Jersey and collegiately at Iowa, where he was coached by Kirk Ferentz. He played sparingly in his first two seasons for the Hawkeyes and missed the entire 2007 season due to academic deficiencies. He returned in 2008 and carried the ball 307 times for 1,850 yards and 20 TDs. He was the only FBS running back that season to rush for over 100 yards in every game.

Following a somewhat poor showing the next spring at the NFL Combine where he ran a 4.62 40-yard dash, he somewhat improved his stock at his pro day by doing more lifts, running a 4.55 and generally passing the eyeball test. Several team scouts had very positive reports of his performance.

He was drafted in the third round by the New York Jets, who traded up twelve spots to take him. He signed a four year contract in June 2009 for $2.7 Million and will earn $615,000 this year and be a free agent in 2013. As seen below in his NFL stats, his opportunities and production have increased in each of his three years with the Jets.

Year Gms Rush RushYds YPC RuTDs Recs RecYds RecTDs TotalYds
09 14 109 541 5.0 2 0 0 0 541
10 15 185 766 4.1 2 16 101 0 867
11 16 253 1,054 4.2 6 30 163 0 1,217
Total 45 547 2,361 4.3 10 46 264 0 2,625

In Greene's first season (09) with the Jets, he backed up Thomas Jones, who played the last of his three seasons with the team. Jones was outstanding that year and rushed for 3,833 yards over his three years with the Jets. The next year (10) Jones had left, but the team acquired LaDainian Tomlinson who seemed rejuvenated by the move to the East Coast and carried the ball 219 times for 914 yards. Then last season, Tomlinson's production and role was greatly diminished as he rushed only 75 times for 280 yards and Greene took over the prominent running back role for the team.

Looking Forward to 2012

As we enter the 2012 pre-season, Greene is on top of the depth chart and the team seems to have very little experience or ability behind him to challenge for carries. Joe McKnight has only 82 career carries over his two seasons and 32 of those came in the Jets' meaningless week 17 game closing out the 2010 season. Last year, Bilal Powell had only 13 carries in his rookie campaign.

The Jets added Tony Sparano as their offensive coordinator for 2012 and many expect them to re-establish the team's preference to lean on the running game. They also added Tim Tebow, who will likely run some wildcat packages that a year ago provided open lanes in Denver for his running backs along with his success on quarterback keepers.

The Jets have an outstanding offensive line, particularly the interior featuring one of the best centers, Nick Mangold who already has four pro-bowls and the tandem of all-pro guards D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Brandon Moore. Their tackles do not come close to matching the ability of the three interior linemen and each will have to fight off competition from depth players to continue to start. But if they do, the Jets will be one of only three NFL teams that return their entire starting five offensive linemen. Many rank the Jets offensive line among the top ten for both run blocking and pass protection.

Shonn Greene is in the final year of his rookie contract and at 27 years of age definitely has tremendous economic incentive to perform well in 2012. This year is probably his make or break year with the Jets or any other team. The Jets seem committed to giving him every opportunity to carry the load this season. Some early reports from Jet practices are that he looked perhaps a little leaner and displayed a hunger not previously seen.


  • Greene is coming off his best season, where he gained 1,217 yards from scrimmage
  • He has an excellent run blocking offensive line
  • His team is committed to him and the running game
  • He caught a career high 30 passes last season
  • His current ADP is RB #23 (58 overall), despite finishing last year as RB #18


  • He has a reputation as a plodder, incapable of missing tackles or extending plays on his own
  • Tebow is expected by many to dominate as the goal line option limiting Greene's goal line carries
  • The Jets passing game does not typically stretch the defenses or keep them from attacking the lone of scrimmage with eight men in the box

Final thoughts

Take advantage of the depressed ADP for Greene that is based on his perceived plodder label and draft this solid running back that is very likely to be a main-stay in the Jets' running game. He will undoubtedly have many games with three or more receptions and twenty carries. Despite his past reputation of having poor hands and never being involved in the team's passing game, he caught 30 passes a year ago. He could very well be even more involved this year since Tomlinson, his frequent replacement on passing downs has retired.

Shonn Greene is one of those steady performers that can be drafted rather late and provide his fantasy owners with valuable and consistent production.

Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

FF Ninja said:

Shonn Greene turns 27 and enters his fourth year in the NFL but he already seems forgotten. With the departure of LT, Greene appears in line for the vast majority of RB touches this year, yet his ADP of 63 places him at the beginning of the 6th round in 12-team leagues. He is going as the 23rd RB off the board despite finishing 18th last year with Tomlinson on the roster.

Once considered to have stone hands, he caught 30 of 41 targets last year for 73% compared to 42 of 60 (70%) for Tomlinson. I doubt that Greene receives Tomlinson's third down duties, but it is likely that Greene is on the field a bit more, thus receiving a few more targets.

The entire team only rushed for 8 and 9 TDs the last two years in a confusing trend away from the ground game despite Sanchez's struggles. In the last three years the RB carries have decreased 534, 456, 397 while Sanchez's ypa has decreased 6.7, 6.5, 6.4. This middling QB threw the ball 542 times last year, so I feel like this trend has to have hit the ceiling, so I expect approximately 400 RB carries again this year although there is an outside chance that Ryan comes to his senses and demands the OC run the ball more. Should Tebow see the field, this is very likely to happen. And although I'd expect that to make things more difficult for the RBs, Tebow's presence seemed to rejuvenate McGahee's career.

So even if things don't get better and Greene only manages half a dozen TDs, he still presents great value at his current ADP. I can't imagine he scores less TDs next year, so you are getting him at below the price of his likely floor. I say likely because the only way he doesn't put up a similar 253/1054/6,30/211/0 would be if he were to get injured or replaced by Powell or McKnight. At this point I think the reward well outweighs the risk. In fact, I'll be surprised if he doesn't outproduce much higher drafted guys such as Trent Richardson. Talent may be more important than situation in dynasty, but for 2012 I think playing for a team that runs the ball 400 times (vs. 300), scores touchdowns (40 vs. 20), and has a good defense will prove more valuable.

David Yudkin ( Staff Writer) said:

As I mentioned in other places, Greene's workload, fantasy scoring, and annual rank has increased each year since he came to NY and now LT is out of the picture. I don't see another back on the roster that the Jets would really feel comfortable in turning the job over to. Guys that get 300 touches are almost always Top 20 fantasy backs unless they really, really are incompetent (low ypc or very few TDs). Even mediocre or average backs with lots of work can have decent fantasy value.

az_prof said:

I am finding it very hard to project Greene for a number of reasons. First, I don't have a good sense of what the offense will look like in terms of pass/rush ratio. Second, I don't think Greene is very talented, but he doesn't have a lot of proven depth behind him. So, he could get the lion's share of carries if McKnight and Powell are really horrible; or, it could be more of a RBBC if they are better than some of us think. I don't think we have seen enough of them to know. I am leaning toward thinking it will be more of a RBBC. Third, we don't know how Tebow will affect production for Greene. Will Greene be the starting RB in the Wildcat? If he is, will the offense be similar to the one Denver ran, which was positive for McGahee, or will it be a different offense that has different benefit to the RB?

My gut feeling is that Greene's touches will be close to what he got last year, and if anything, will be less. LT only had 75 carries, and I expect Powell/McKnight to get more than the 56 they had collectively last year. Plus, Tebow will get some, perhaps more than LT did. I think the safest bet is to project production similar to last year for Greene, with the possibility of it being LESS. I don't see much change that it is more.

Sweet Love said:

Last year he had 30 receptions. Each year he has increased those receptions from 0-16-32 (in three years). He also did this with LT on the roster last year getting 42 receptions. If you halve that and give 21 each to Greene and McKnight, you are looking at 50+...also, a fact few seem to know, Greene was one of only 10 RBs last year to have over 200 carries and 30+ receptions. I am not saying he is talented. I am saying he is good enough to get results, the only really "proper" RB on the roster, and running behind two perennial Pro-Bowlers...yeah, I'll take that guy at RB 20.

Shonn Greene projections

Steve Holloway26511407382581
Message board consensus25010316332511