Greene could go in 2nd, 3rd round of NFL draft

BY SCOTT MILLER | APRIL 24, 2009 7:29 AM

Shonn Greene has always been soft-spoken.

At times, it seems like he’s talking under his breath. His sentences usually trail off at the end, not because of a lack of interest, but because of a genuine dislike of talking about himself. It’s something that was on display every week after Iowa’s games. He would delve into just about anything — his offensive line, his quarterback, his coaches — except himself.

Talking to Greene in a telephone interview leading up to this weekend’s NFL draft, nothing had changed. The future pro still kept his comments concise, never divulging too much about himself or his feelings.

But when the topic shifted to what he looked forward to most about his future, Greene’s tone shifted. Talking about getting to play in the NFL, he was suddenly more upbeat.

“Just playing football again,” he said and chuckled. “It feels like I haven’t played football in a while. … That and, you know, seeing how pros handle things, and all of the different techniques NFL teams [teach].”

Yes, after torching Big Ten front sevens for 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns, the nation’s best running back is a lock to get picked by an NFL franchise this weekend.

And while draft experts differ on his value and his eventual destination, nearly all agree that Greene, whose penchant for running over defensive backs and picking up yards after contact made him the staple of Iowa’s backfield, will be off the board by the end of the third round.

But after running a 4.65-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine in February, his stock began to dip, because scouts feared he lacked the necessary straight-line speed to get into NFL secondaries.

A month later at Iowa’s Pro Day, however, the 5-11, 227-pound running back improved his 40 time to 4.55 seconds and displayed a 39-inch vertical jump — something that had him feeling “pretty good.” The 29 NFL scouts who showed up left Iowa City impressed, and his draft stock began to rise again.

“NFL teams, I think, there’s a number of analyses that they use, and the biggest factor … is film,” said Sean Howard, Greene’s agent and senior client manager at Octagon Sports Agency. “Once they look at the film, they [will] look at other drills at the combine where Shonn performed very, very well.”

Currently, ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr., has the Iowa tailback going in the second round at pick No. 63 to the Arizona Cardinals. Todd McShay of Scouts Inc. projects Greene to go the New York Jets in the third round at No. 76, while the National Football Post’s Wes Bunting, who ranked him as his No. 3 running back overall, pegged Houston as his new home at No. 77.

“I know Greene isn’t a burner, but I love his vision, power, and body control at the line of scrimmage,” Bunting recently wrote in an article dubbing him a member of his All-Favorites Team heading into the draft. “He does a great job picking up yards after contact and is like trying to tackle a refrigerator in the open field.”

Since the combine, Greene has flown out to San Diego and Arizona for visits and worked out for the Jets in Iowa City, “in addition to a number of personal visits on the telephone,” Howard said.

All the buzz surrounding him has led to Howard having an optimistic outlook on this weekend’s draft. While he wasn’t willing to divulge specific teams interested in the former Hawkeye, the agent said he has been hearing Greene, who will watch the draft from his home in Sicklerville, N.J., could come off the board “anywhere from the bottom of the first round to middle-to-end of the second round.”

“All it takes is one team,” Howard said. “All it takes is one team to fall in love with you, and that’s what we’re hoping for on Saturday.”

When asked about his former pupil on April 14, Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe said NFL scouts had been inquiring about anything and everything regarding the running back. Greene’s academic problems in the past — which caused him to miss the 2007 season while rehabbing his grades at Kirkwood Community College — may have raised some red flags, but O’Keefe contends that the best way to get to know the Doak Walker Award winner is by watching his tape.

“[Scouts] are looking for chinks in the armor more than anything else just to make sure they know what they are getting into,” O’Keefe said. “Everyone wants to know how tough he is, how smart he is, can he catch the ball?

“The No. 1 thing that you can put stock into is turning the tape on and watching. That is the thing that probably isn’t going to fool anybody.”

When looking at film, scouts might only be looking at 2008. But Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said he told some NFL teams to look back as far as 2005, when Greene emerged as a special teams star.

“The other thing about Shonn Greene too — and I’ve told a couple of the pro people — you need to go back and look at his kickoff coverage in 2005,” Ferentz said at a March 25 press conference. “I remember the hit he made against Michigan out there in Kinnick.

“To me, that was kind of a signature play for him to just give you an idea that this guy might have something a little bit different from some other guys.”

The culmination of Greene’s journey back to Iowa and his out-of-nowhere Doak Walker Award-winning performance in 2008 will come this weekend in New York. It will mark the end of a 12-month period that started with Greene just hoping to work his way back on the field after attending Kirkwood.

At this point last year, he never imagined his name getting called during the NFL draft. But that dream, one that seemed so far-fetched even during the summer, will become a reality for Greene this weekend.

“It’s just a surprise to me, as well as everybody else,” he said. “I was just working to get back playing football at Iowa. This all came as a surprise. I worked hard for it, though, so here we are.”

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