Entering this season, Shonn Greene was an enigma. He provided some interesting flashes of brilliance toward the end of his rookie year, but the New York Jets' acquisition of LaDainian Tomlinson before the 2010 season really capped Greene's second-year value. Entering this season, it seemed as if there wasn't much of a reason to expect a change, as it was reasonable to expect Greene to get about 60 to 65 percent of the carries with the rest going to Tomlinson, who would also handle passing game responsibilities. It seems that split may be changing.
During his first two seasons, Greene was targeted 29 total times for an average of one time per game. On Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, Greene was targeted seven times. For a back who isn't supposed to be a good receiver, this is important not just because he was targeted those seven times, but because he caught each of those seven targets.
While Greene's per-carry average is a paltry 3.1 yards, the peripheral stats show he might be on the verge of a breakout. In his past two games, Greene has broken rushes for 10 or more yards five times in his 31 total carries. That big-play ability coupled with the Jets utilizing him more in the passing game makes Greene a buy-low candidate.
Week 3 Targets
Receiving yardage is variable because so much of it is dependent on where the quarterback elects to throw the ball. The variations in the number of times a player is targeted by his quarterback may greatly alter a player's value. It's important to look at the underlying target metric on a weekly basis to determine which stud performances were flukes and which dud performances can be written off to a bad day. With that in mind, the following players finished with seven or more this past week:
Wes Welker, New England Patriots (20 targets, 16 receptions, 217 yards): It's time to stop viewing Welker as Tom Brady's safety valve and recognize him as the legitimate No. 1 fantasy receiver that he is. If you can buy him for anything less than a top-10 receiver, do so immediately. Similarly, Rob Gronkowski (9 targets, 7 receptions, 109 yards) has moved into the elite tier of tight ends as he is being used both as a yardage threat and red zone target.
Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens (8 targets, 5 receptions, 152 yards): Smith is sure to be a top pickup this week based on his amazing game this past Sunday, but temper expectations for him. Titus Young (8 targets, 4 receptions, 51 yards) of the Detroit Lions is a better option. As stated last week, Young is going to overtake Nate Burleson during this season and it appears that process has already begun. In his past two games, Young has been targeted 15 times to Burleson's 11, including a seven to two advantage this weekend.
Eric Decker, Denver Broncos (12 targets, 7 receptions, 48 yards): Decker is owned in only 64 percent of ESPN.com leagues. That percentage needs to rise to about 95 percent, especially considering that Brandon Lloyd was targeted five fewer times this past Sunday. If he's not owned in your league, this is likely your last chance to change that.
Michael Jenkins, Minnesota Vikings (11 targets, 9 receptions, 88 yards): After being targeted just six times in the first two games, Jenkins had a very strong showing against the Detroit Lions. Since six of those 11 targets came in the first half while the Vikings had the lead, it's looking like Jenkins is on the verge of becoming a suitable bye-week replacement option.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (7 targets, 6 receptions, 115 yards): One might notice that six of Jones' seven targets came in the second half when the Falcons were trying to overcome a double-digit deficit and dismiss that statistic thinking that the offense is an even split of running and passing. What those people would be missing is that the Falcons have only 58 rush attempts versus 122 passing attempts. With that 2-1 pass-to-rush ratio, Jones is not only rosterable, but serves as a fine third receiver.
Big plays, up close
There were seven NFL players who totaled three or more rushes that went for at least 10 yards: LeSean McCoy (7), Ryan Grant (5), Darren McFadden (5), Shonn Greene (3), Fred Jackson (3), Maurice Jones-Drew (3), Jonathan Stewart (3).
Jones-Drew now has two or more rushes for 10 or more yards in each of his three games this year. Despite an anemic passing attack in Jacksonville, Jones-Drew is proving to be worthy of the early pick that risk-takers used to select him. While those who own Jones-Drew and who also have running back depth may be inclined to bench him for better matchups, that would be playing too cute. Jones-Drew should start against every NFL team.
Week 3 featured only four players who had four or more carries inside their opponent's 10-yard line: Willis McGahee (6), Ryan Fitzpatrick (4), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (4) and Ryan Mathews (4). Not exactly a Who's Who of Rushing Touchdowns.
Last week, this column warned that Mike Tolbert's value was being artificially inflated due to an abnormally high number of targets in the passing game. This week, Tolbert received only five targets and subsequently went from fantasy relevant to also-ran. Conversely, Ryan Mathews earned more touches and not only took away the targets that had been going to Tolbert, he also became the feature goal-line back. If this continues, not only will Tolbert become useless, Mathews will skyrocket into the top 10 running back options.
There are 12 players in the NFL with at least six carries inside their opponent's 10-yard line. Among those 12, only Mark Ingram doesn't have a rushing touchdown from that specific range. If you expand that list to include running backs with at least five such carries, only Cedric Benson gets added to that list. Since both players' fantasy values are tied to getting into the end zone, owners should begin to process of cutting bait on both if any sort of reasonable value can be returned.
Ken Daube is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com. For gameday insights, follow him on twitter @KenDaubeESPNFF.