The 2009 NFL Draft was a strong one for running backs. Knowshon Moreno, Chris “Beanie” Wells, Donald Brown and LeSean McCoy were all drafted before the end of the second round and all of them are expected to have very productive NFL careers.
However, it is difficult to argue that any of them are in a better situation than Shonn Greene of the New York Jets.
The Jets traded up during the draft to select the 5'11", 235 lb. battering ram from University of Iowa with an eye towards the future. Greene rushed for 2,228 yards and 22 touchdowns in only three years with the Hawkeyes and presented a nice option for just about any NFL backfield.
So, what then makes his situation with the Jets so special (and, by extension, makes him an excellent fantasy option)?
Well, let’s take a look at how the Jets are presently constructed: To call them a “run-first” team would be like saying that Lady Gaga’s fashion sense is a bit “out there.” New York led the entire league in rushing attempts last season with 607, 82 more than their closest competitor, the Carolina Panthers.
Using the triumvirate of Greene, Thomas Jones and Leon Washington (at least, until Washington broke his leg in one of most gruesome football injuries in recent memory), the Jets were able to amass an average of 172.3 rushing yards per game.
The Jets changed their philosophy to this “Three yards and a cloud of dust” program once new head coach Rex Ryan came on board. Ryan is known for his creative defensive schemes, but it surely hadn’t escaped his notice that, during his time with the Baltimore Ravens, a strong running game coupled with a dominant defense will win you a heck of a lot of games and just might bring you all the way to a championship.
Another big reason for the plan was the decision to install rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez to run the offense. No matter how talented a young quarterback is, it’s tantamount to suicide to constantly put him in a position where he is forced to win you games by himself during his first year.
The transition from college defenses to those of the professional level is just too big of a leap to make for just about everyone. The Jets leaned heavily on the run game, something that they won’t look to deviate from next season, either.
Here’s more good news for Greene: Thomas Jones, the lion-hearted warrior who turns 32 this August, won't be back with the Jets next season. He was a tremendous asset, but football is (like it or not) a business first and foremost and the Jets are not willing to pay what amounts to a luxury tax by keeping Jones on the roster when there is no way to calculate just how much gas is left in the tank. It’s a shame, but, eventually, Father Time catches up to all of us.
This move paves the way for Greene to easily more than double, maybe triple the 108 carries he saw last year—if he stays healthy.
Greene is a powerful runner who shows a rare burst of speed for a big man and should have some nice holes opened for him by an excellent New York offensive line. Ability, opportunity and environment should all come together for him in a perfect storm of success.
Green is an ideal candidate to draft and hold in dynasty leagues and he really shouldn’t make it past the third round in the redraft variety either.
Written by Frank Mazzola
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