Spotlight: Shonn Greene

posted by on Jun 30th

's thoughts

Shonn Greene is the textbook example of a player in a situation best described as a perfect storm based on fantasy opportunity. The Jets are coming off a season with over 600 rushing attempts as a team. They have a young quarterback that as a rookie was rarely asked to be much more than a game manager. They have a solid defensive unit that ranked tops in the league in fewest points and yards allowed. They have one of the best offensive lines in the league. They had a Top Five running back in terms of rushing yards that they let walk. All those positives have fallen into Greene's lap, and all he needs to do now is capitalize on his opportunity.

Greene is one of 29 rookie running backs to have at least 100 carries and a 5.0 ypc. That list includes such luminaries as Hall of Famers Franco Harris, Barry Sanders, and Gale Sayers and other current day stars such as Adrian Peterson, Clinton Portis, Steven Jackson, and Maurice Jones-Drew. That's some pretty impressive company.

The list also contains some players that failed to sustain that level of success much beyond their rookie seasons including Onterrio Smith, Blair Thomas, and Joe Carter. Clearly doing well and being efficient upon entering the league is no guarantee of sustained and enduring production.

Greene not only excelled in the regular season, but he kicked it up a notch in the post season, averaging a stellar 5.6 yards per carry and adding another 304 rushing yards over three playoff games. Compared to Thomas Jones' lackluster 2.6 ypc in the postseason, Greene looked explosive while Jones looked slow and plodding. Combining their regular and postseason numbers, Greene had a 5.2 ypc vs. 4.0 for Jones.

However, history has shown that teams with 600 team rushing attempts will frequently see a dip in attempts the following season. The Jets became only the second franchise to eclipse 600 rushing attempts in over 20 years and, for the most part, the game has changed to a passing league. Here were the results of all the teams that had 600 rushing attempts in a season since the league expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1978 (a prorated total was used for strike shortened seasons).

Team YearX Rushes YearX+1 Rushes
CHI 1984 674 1985 610
NEP 1978 671 1979 604
KCC 1978 663 1979 569
PIT 1978 641 1979 561
NYJ 1979 634 1980 470
CHI 1978 634 1979 627
DAL 1981 630 1982 526
WAS 1983 629 1984 588
CHI 1979 627 1980 579
DAL 1978 625 1979 578
PIT 2004 618 2005 549
HOU 1979 616 1980 573
RAM 1980 615 1981 559
PIT 1983 614 1984 574
CHI 1985 610 1986 606
KCC 1981 610 1982 478
TBB 1979 609 1980 477
WAS 1979 609 1980 517
RAM 1978 609 1979 592
CHI 1981 608 1982 491
NYJ 2009 607 2010 ?
CHI 1986 606 1987 517
NEP 1979 604 1980 588
BUF 1980 603 1981 524
HOU 1978 603 1979 616
BAL 1983 601 1984 510
DEN 1978 601 1979 525
Average x 621 x 554

Similarly, teams that have had defenses that have ranked first in fewest points allowed and fewest yards allowed have also slipped some the following year. Even with the players the Jets have added on the defensive side of the ball, they should still be expected to be less productive on defense this year (if history holds true to form).

Team YearX YearX+1 PtsRank YdsRank
PIT 2008 2009 12 5
BAL 2006 2007 22 6
PIT 2004 2005 3 5
TBB 2002 2003 4 5
GBP 1996 1997 5 7
CHI 1986 1987 4 2
CHI 1985 1986 1 1
PHI 1981 1982 19 20
TBB 1979 1980 20 20
PIT 1976 1977 17 7
MIA 1972 1973 1 3
MIN 1970 1971 1 2
KCC 1969 1970 8 6
Average x x 9 7

Head coach Rex Ryan recently explained that LaDainian Tomlinson will be slotted to fill the role that Leon Washington had prior to his trade to Seattle. Washington saw about ten carries and two receptions a game before he broke his leg last year. However, early reports have questioned how much Tomlinson has left in the tank and some doubts have been raised as to his burst and elusiveness.

For the trivia obsessed, Greene became the fourth running back to have 100 carries in a season and not catch a pass (Andra Franklin, 1983, 224 rushes; Joe Montgomery, 1999, 115 rushes; Vaughn Dunbar, 1995, 110 rushes).

The Jets have made a concerted effort to upgrade their passing attack, trading for WR Braylon Edwards last year and WR Santonio Holmes in the off-season. The Jets will likely pass more than they did last season, and they should start to give QB Mark Sanchez some added responsibility to move the ball through the air.


  • Lead dog on a team that is run crazed and plays smash mouth football with a young quarterback and a suffocating defense.
  • Got the ultimate vote of confidence when the Jets let Thomas Jones walk and handed the keys to Greene instead.
  • Did very well in limited opportunities last year and should have better skills and fresher legs than his main competition, a well past his prime LaDainian Tomlinson.


  • Greene was shut out in the receiving game last year, putting up a goose egg in the receptions column in 18 games played. He had the same total of rushing attempts inside the opponent's 5 yard line (regular and post season included).
  • New York replaced Jones with former all world tailback Tomlinson, and he could see the lion's share of goal line carries and the huge majority of RB receptions. If Greene stumbles, Tomlinson has the experience to take over a sizeable amount of carries.
  • One has to wonder if Greene could shoulder a heavy workload. He barely played his first two seasons in college before averaging nearly 24 carries a game as a junior at Iowa. He only has 11 total receptions his entire collegiate career.

Final thoughts

There is some risk in considering Greene, as he hasn't really shown that he can be a consistent fantasy producer and carry a full load as of yet. However, people considering drafting him will have to pay a decent price to get him on their fantasy squad.

As the saying goes, some men are born great while others have greatest thrust upon them. That could just be the case with Greene. Tomlinson has not been the same in recent seasons and could easily be a shell of his former self. Greene could simply be in the right place at the right time. At least on paper, it looks like the Jet offense will flow through Greene, and the Jets running back corps posted 2,520 yards from scrimmage and 16 total TD last year.

With Jones and Washington shown the door, they leave behind a void of 403 carries, 1,703 rushing yards, 25 receptions, 189 receiving yards, and 14 total TD. And remember, that's NOT including Greene's 108 attempts, 540 yards, and two rushing TD.

As far as Greene not seeing the ball at the goal line, he's 5'11", 230 lbs. He may not get every goal line look, but he should still get some. Even with 40 fewer team RB rushing attempts, that would still leave roughly 475 carries to be divvied up between Greene, Tomlinson, and rookie Joe McKnight. A 65/30/5 split would net Greene around 310 carries.

Quotations from the message board thread

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

Senior Writer Jason Wood said:

I view Greene as overvalued at current ADP, and don't figure he'll be on many of my rosters as a result. But I also think that opportunity sets his floor considerably higher than the 600 yards I've seen mentioned in this thread already.

rzrback77 said:

I really enjoyed the Jets run through the playoffs last year and watched Shonn Greene really shine in the playoffs. I am not a huge Greene fan, but I think that some of the projections are failing to assess the effectiveness of the Jets Offensive Line in 09. They were awesome last year and I expect them to remain very good in 2010. Even though Sanchez should continue to progress and he has added some nice receiving options, this team loves to pound the rock.

07- 446 carries 1601 yds 3.59 ypc 6 TDs with RBs having 381 for 1472 3.9 ypc and 4 TDs
08- 422 carries 2004 yds 4.75 ypc 20 TDs with RBs having 381 for 1833 4.8 ypc and 19 TDs
09- 605 carries 2617 yds 4.33 ypc 21 TDs with RBs having 519 for 2321 4.5 ypc and 16 TDs

New York Jets had 605 rushing attempts in 09 against only 389 passes, an amazing 60.9% rushing. I don't expect that ratio to stay in place, but I doubt that it drops to lower than 55%. Assuming the same number of offensive plays, that would produce 547 rushing attempts, with around 490 or so probably going to the RBs. I just don't see how Shonn Greene doesn't get at least twenty per game. That would still leave 170 to split among LT, McKnight and Richardson.

He did have one reception in the playoffs so maybe he is coming around some with his hands.

We Tigers said:

I like what I've seen out of Greene, but to me, the answer to this question really comes down to the effectiveness--or lack thereof--of LaDainian Tomlinson. In the 6 games Leon Washington was available in 2009, he had 71 carries and 15 receptions, while Thomas Jones had 96 carries and 4 catches. This resulted in 4 very unimpressive games for Thomas Jones from weeks 2-5. It's a limited sample size, but seeing those numbers and watching some of those games, it suggests that Rex Ryan may be after a solid split between two backs when he has two healthy backs he trusts (Greene was still an untested rookie at that point, and I don't think Greene 2009 had the built-in cred that Tomlinson 2010 will). How much will that leave for Greene?

I like rzrback's projection of just south of 500 RB carries. I think, in an ideal scenario, Tomlinson would deliver this team 150-200 carries, and 25-30 receptions. I'm a believer in both Greene and the offensive line, but think he may be capped at around 260-270 rushes in 2010. Given his considerable talents, that will still be enough for a very good season and fringe RB1 numbers in standard scoring, but perhaps not the bellcow breakout worthy of the 13th overall pick for which he's currently slotted, especially in PPR leagues.

fightingillini said:

I like Shonn Greene this year. Run first team, great OL, Sanchez has more weapons at WR-TE so defenses can't just put 8 in the box. Question will be how much does Tomlinson get in the pie. I can't imagine Tomlinson getting a ton of carries.....I don't think he's that effective anymore. But NYJ will still be a run first team and will probably carry the ball about 30 times a game, so there's no reason why Greene can't get 300 carries. His value does take a slight hit in PPR leagues since it's possible that Tomlinson will be the 3rd down back.

Multiple Scores said:

Greene has the best O-line to work with in football, is the epitome of what you want in a grind it out workhorse back, the stars are aligned for this second year player. Big play has transitioned to the NFL more than I had thought at this time last year, this is a guy who I want on my team and should be considered in the elite tier when this time of year rolls around next year. I believe the move of shipping out TJ and bringing in LT is what propels Greene to elite fantasy football status.

Shonn Greene projections

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