The second day of the NFL Draft kicked off with a one-two punch of Iowa Hawkeyes. The New York Jets scooped up Shonn Greene with the first pick of the third round (65 overall) and St. Louis grabbed Bradley Fletcher with the next selection.
Sunday's early flurry followed a silent Saturday when no Hawkeyes heard their names called. Iowa's last player taken in the first two rounds was Chad Greenway to the Vikings in 2006 in Round 1.
Greene, the 2008 Doak Walker winner as the nation's top running back, became the first Hawkeye at that position chosen since Ladell Betts went in the second round of the '02 draft. Fletcher turned out to be the second Iowa cornerback (Charles Godfrey) taken in as many years.
"I think they really believe in my talent and my potential to trade up and get me," Greene told the Associated Press. "I'm just going to work my hardest to satisfy ... and help the team win."
Greene will play professionally less than two hours up the New Jersey Turnpike from where he grew up.
"He was the best player that was on our board, and in our opinion, it wasn't close," Jets Coach Rex Ryan said on ESPN. "It wasn't necessarily a need, but you get a rare talent like Shonn has. He's a big, powerful running back.
"Shoot, we want to have a little ground and pound. We did that in Baltimore with three good backs. We have three great backs here. I'm excited about that. He's got starter ability. Two hundred thirty pounds with great vision, let's just give him the football and see what happens."
Ryan, who will coach his first year in New York after being the defensive coordinator with the Ravens, added Greene to a backfield that already has Thomas Jones (31 years old) and situational talent Leon Washington. Jones has been the only Jet to miss voluntary camps this spring, according to ESPN.
"He played for Kirk Ferentz," ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "Kirk Ferentz has a lot of respect in the NFL. He's one of the outstanding coaches in college football.
"This kid really delivered this season; was the workhorse running back in the Big Ten for the Iowa Hawkeyes. (He has) a low center of gravity and powerful base. What he needs to work on is not running the football. He can do that and do it very effectively. Catching the ball out of the backfield, his hands are not what you'd want them to be at this stage of his development."
Greene rushed for an Iowa record 1,850 yards in '08 after sitting out the previous season to work on academics. In addition to questions about his receiving abilities, Greene may have lasted to Round 3 because he failed to run under a 4.6-second, 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.
"I thought he was the fifth-best back on the draft board," Kiper Jr. said. "LeSean McCoy went (Saturday). Now (Greene) is the first back off the board in Round 3. You think this kid can contribute in a running situation, not coming out of the backfield catching the ball."
Fletcher intercepted three passes and broke up 10 others as a senior, his first year as a full-time starter at Iowa. The Ohio native rose up the draft boards with his offseason workouts.
"He's a big corner who really came on this year," Kiper Jr. said. "He was one of the hot guys through the draft process. He's real strong in the upper body, really good athlete. You look at this kid, as he progressed, he needs a little more experience. But he closes quickly, athletic, made some plays in the run game as well. He will tackle.
"This was a guy who moved up. He was ascending over the last two months. And there you go, Kirk Ferentz, respected again. His opinions mean a lot to the NFL. You've got back-to-back Hawkeyes at the top of the third round."
Opinions varied pretty widely on where Greene would be selected in the draft. Some services rated him ahead of McCoy and UConn's Donald Brown, both of whom went ahead of the New Jersey native. The Jets moved up in first round to draft USC QB Mark Sanchez, who likely will start from Day 1.
"(The Greene pick) helps the quarterback and the defense," Former Jets Coach turned ESPN Analyst Herman Edwards said on the network's broadcast on Sunday morning. "And in this league, remember, it's running back by committee anymore. It's not one guy.
"So, what they've done is they've got three running backs with specific talents. I think it's perfect."
"People might question three running backs, but you're one hit from two running backs. They're in great shape."
And, that three-headed running monster could dwindle to two guys if Jones holds out. It's being reported that he's unhappy with his contract.
"This might be one of those messages that they're sending to Thomas Jones – You better get in here because you're going to have a competition for your starting job," ESPN NFL Reporter Sal Paolantonio said on the network Sunday morning. "That's probably why they went out and got a running back, and traded up and invested another pick. They have a rookie camp coming up at the end of the week and then they have a mandatory mini-camp in June where they're going to have fans for the first time.
"So, they want to Thomas Jones to get the message to get into here for camp."