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Shonn Greene is the Most Undervalued Back in Fantasy Football

Shonn Greene as a fantasy football pickup last year? Hated him. This year, I love him. Why has my opinion on the New York Jets running back changed? Well, let’s start with this–my opinion actually hasn’t changed, and I value Shonn Greene very much like I did a year ago. Public perception of his value has swung wildly since last year at this time.

A year ago, many were touting Greene as a breakout candidate for the Jets, and you would occasionally see him drafted in late first rounds of some drafts, and certainly as a high end RB #2. I had him down at around RB19 a year ago, and so there was no way he was going to end up on any of my teams. I had several concerns, which included that I did not see him as an elite talent, and I didn’t think that he was productive enough as a receiver to justify taking him before that spot.

Evan Silva has an interview with Greg Cosell where they talk about Shonn Greene :

“I think that he’s a little bit of a one-speed runner,” Cosell explained, “and I think that’s caught up to him a little bit. I think that he’s a strong kid. I think he can run downhill. I think he can move the pile because he’s got natural strength. But I don’t think there’s much burst to him. I think he’s pretty much of a one-speed runner. And I think those guys eventually struggle.

I don’t disagree with any of that, and I do think that Shonn Greene isn’t going to probably be starring in this league at age 29. I do think, though, that his situation is arguably better this year, and he’s about the same. However, public perception has shifted to where he is currently going off the board as about the 26th running back in fantasy football standard scoring, and 75th overall. By my count, that puts him in about the early 7th round in a 12-team league. LaDainian Tomlinson has retired, and the Jets current depth chart behind Greene is some combination of smaller back Joe McKnight and a cast of guys who have never been in my kitchen. They didn’t spend an early pick on a back, or sign a free agent like Michael Bush to compete with Greene. There is no indication that Greene is going to be replaced this year barring an injury. Last year, he finished as the 18th highest scoring back in a standard league, and over the last half of the season, was 10th in scoring. Splits can be meaningless, but Greene certainly wasn’t declining from a previous benchmark over the last half of last year.

Here are the backs who were most similar to Shonn Greene at age 25 and 26, based on percentage of rush yards to total yards from scrimmage, total yards from scrimmage at age 25 and yards at age 26.

Those are backs who were also mostly runners with very few receiving yards from age 25 to 26, and generally fit Shonn Greene. His numbers are virtually identical to the group, except his yards per carry is actually higher. I listed the results at age 27, and the finish in standard scoring fantasy football. The average was 916 rushing yards, 200 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns, and an average finish of 20.9. Now, a back with an average finish of 20.9 should not actually go 21st at the position, more like 14th or 15th. (I also talked about that regarding Darren Sproles, a player going almost four rounds earlier, where his comps had a median finish the next year of RB26). While I don’t think Greene is going to have a year like Garrison Hearst in 1998, I also think there are several guys that are pretty comparable and could have likewise been described as moderate talents. At least by that age, many of those guys were plodders.

So, even though I think Greene is a middling talent who is not going to produce a top 5 season, I think he also has upside to improve his numbers slightly from last year. I don’t think he has competition, and while there is a concern about Tebow and short yardage, the presence of Tebow did not hurt Willis McGahee last year. Last year, I ended up with a team that “featured” Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, and Marshawn Lynch, hardly a fear-inducing pairing at the start of the season, and all available outside the top twenty at the position.

In fantasy football, it’s about looking for inefficiencies and not overreacting when the market swings wildly. I suspect Shonn Greene will be on my team this year if he is still going off the board in the late 20’s, and as late as round 6 or 7.

[photo via US Presswire]

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