When you're in the fantasy football business like I am, making predictions on players is a major part of the game. From rankings to projections on breakouts, sleepers, busts and more, there is a lot of forward thinking. In fact, most of the online and print fantasy content you read, regardless of the sport, is centered around prognostication.
I don't think Nostradamus looked into the future this much!
Among the countless players I promote or warn owners against every season, inevitably there are going to be one or two that I hang my hat on. In 2005, it was Carson Palmer. The following year, I was all over Frank Gore. I had a self-admitted man crush on Marshawn Lynch in 2007. Aaron Rodgers was my main man in 2008.
Admittedly, though, not all of my predictions have gone well (thanks for nothing last season, Matt Forte), but you get the point.
Despite the fact that we've just now reached the month of March, I'm already prepared to hang my hat on someone for next season. In my opinion, he is unequivocally the No. 1 breakout player of 2010. No question about it. Big numbers await the fantasy owners who pull the trigger on this player in the first round.
The team has already announced that it will release veteran Thomas Jones on March 5. That will open the door for Greene to take over the top spot on the depth chart, which will result in a major increase in carries and production.
Before we look ahead at the sort of numbers we can expect from Greene in his new role, let's first look back at the level of success Jones had as the team's featured back.
The veteran rushed for a combined 2,714 yards and scored 29 total touchdowns over the last two seasons. He also finished no worse than fifth among running backs in fantasy points on NFL.com in that time. LaDainian Tomlinson, Frank Gore and Steven Jackson can't make that claim.
Furthermore, those ultra-impressive numbers came from a back in Jones who averaged a mere 812 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns in his first eight seasons at the NFL level.
If you ask me, you can put the 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns Jones recorded last season and put them next to Greene's name in 2010.
Remember, general manager Mike Tannenbaum traded the team's third- (No. 76 overall), fourth- (No. 115 overall) and seventh- (No. 228 overall) round picks in the 2009 NFL Draft to move up and draft Greene in the third round (No. 65 overall).
While he was a fantasy afterthought for much of his rookie season, the Iowa product did showcase flashes of brilliance down the stretch.
In his final two regular season games, Greene carried the ball a combined 29 times and averaged an impressive 5.4 yards per attempt. With Jones at less than 100 percent due to a sore knee, Greene went on to take over the featured spot in the first two weeks of the postseason. He thrived in the role, rushing for a combined 263 yards and two touchdowns on the big stage in road wins over the Bengals and Chargers.
Aside from his impressive postseason run, Greene also had a tremendous yards-per-carry average. In three regular-season games where he received 13 or more rushing attempts, Greene had a combined 301 yards with a 6.3 yards-per-carry average. In three postseason games, he averaged 5.6 yards per carry.
Overall, he rushed for an average of 5.2 yards per rushing attempt between the regular season and playoffs.
Combine those numbers with the 310 carries Jones has averaged in the featured role over the last three seasons, and Greene would be projected to rush for better than 1,600 yards over a full 16 games. With one of the league's best offensive lines in front of him, I don't think that number is out of reach, either.
As if those statistics alone aren't reason enough to be excited about Greene, take into consideration that he'll be the featured back on a team that fielded the top-ranked rushing offense in the league last season. While he will lose some work to Leon Washington, it won't be nearly enough to put a dent into his overall statistical potential.
If Chris Johnson is the Gisele Bundchen of fantasy football running backs, then Greene is Brooklyn Decker. He is a superstar in the making, a future fantasy beast who will help lead your team to a championship. In fact, I see him as a top-six player at his position behind only Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice and Michael Turner.
Make no mistake, Greene is worth a high first-round pick in seasonal and keeper drafts.
Consider my hat hung...