Shonn Greene has now sunk to the periphery of NFL running backs, a far off land ruled by Beanie Wells and Mark Ingram, and its environment is similar to the land of misfit toys. Cold, barren, and home to the defected.
He’s still very much leading that group, but that’s only because of his status as the Jets’ featured back which is growing increasingly shaky, and his name value, of which he has some, which is notable because it’s more than none.
His performance thus far (which has been poor) after his 2011 season (also poor) may lead you to believe that he’s becoming irrelevant as a fantasy option, and he’s only a desperation play. And indeed that should be the case, as dropping Greene will soon be a heavily considered move if he puts together another week in which running into bodies is his preferred Sunday activity.
Most of you are still hanging on to the Jets runner, and I can only assume you’re doing that for one reason: byes that start now and don’t end until Week 11, and their rotating ritual of thinning out rosters. To that I say godspeed, friend, for disappointment will likely be a frequent emotion in your near future.
Greene is owned in 87 percent of Yahoo leagues, a number that rises to 100 percent in ESPN leagues. He’s maintained those high rates through three weeks despite having only 157 yards on an average of 2.8 per carry. Last year he had 1,054 rushing yards, a noteworthy yet heavily inflated number after he averaged a very average 65.9 yards per game, and he had only two 100-yard games. In fairness, his matchups this year haven’t been ideal against a Miami run defense last week that’s ranked third in the league thus far, and Pittsburgh and Buffalo before that.
But it wasn’t a healthy Steelers defense Greene was running against two weeks ago with James Harrison and Troy Polamalu out. When faced with the same depleted D last week, Darren McFadden broke off a 64-yard run for a touchdown, and finished with 113 yards overall after having just 54 yards over his first two weeks. Meanwhile, Arian Foster still managed to finish with 79 yards and — most importantly — two touchdowns against the Dolphins back in Week 1. The starkest contrast between his performance and Greene’s was Foster’s yards per carry against Miami, a defense that makes 3.0 feel like an accomplishment. That’s how Foster’s day finished, and it’s nearly a full yard more than what Greene had against the same defense (2.1).
Picking apart Greene’s opponents leads to a larger, more troubling problem as bye weeks loom: it’s not getting any easier, while he seems to be getting a lot worse.
He had a plodding, struggling 94 yards back in Week 1 when he needed 27 carries to get there, and his longest run was 14 yards. Meanwhile, just last week Greene’s 19 carries netted only 40 yards, while backup Bilal Powell needed just 10 carries against those big, mean Dolphins to finish with 45 yards. It was the second week in a row Greene’s backup was moderately more productive with a lesser workload, as in Week 2 Powell had 33 yards on nine carries, and Greene had 23 yards on 11 carries.
Greene is on your bench right now, and although the byes this week aren’t heavy on prime running back options sitting out (Pittsburgh and Indianapolis), DeMarco Murray, Darren McFadden, and Doug Martin will be watching football just like us next week, followed by Matt Forte/Michael Bush, Jonathan Stewart/DeAngelo Williams, and Maurice Jones-Drew in Week 6. Those are some significant names, and at best Greene is now your bye-week filler, even though you drafted him on average late in the seventh round, often not far behind Martin and Steven Ridley, and ahead of Williams.
He’s supported by a passing offense that’s inexplicably throwing the ball to Tim Tebow, and is averaging 231.7 yards (19th) through the air per game under Mark Sanchez, who’s finished two games with a passer rating below 60. Throughout the remainder of the Jets’ sked Greene will face the Dolphins once more along with four other current top five rushing defenses (Seahawks, Chargers, Texans, 49ers). When you may begin to need him most over the next two weeks, those matchups against Houston and San Francisco are looming.
It’s not time to move rashly yet and drop Greene, although again, that could come soon. For now, his outlook is becoming increasingly woeful, and if you’re facing a situation where you’ll be forced to use him in Week 5 due to a bye, try to beat the Reggie Bush owner in your league to Daniel Thomas if he’s available. His ownership is scattered, and is at just 14 percent in Yahoo leagues, and 58.9 percent in ESPN leagues.