In a recent post on ESPN.com, Kevin Seifert suggested that the Packers have “committed” to RB James Starks which raises the question of whether or not Starks could perhaps wind up being a breakout player in 2012.
At first glance, many fantasy owners would immediately say no. Green Bay is one of the most prolific passing offenses in the NFL which usually renders any RB hopeful a potential bust; regardless of talent.
As if that isn’t enough, one could easily mention Starks’ penchant for injury into the debate which makes him a potential liability to even the most savvy fantasy owner.
But let’s not judge a book by its cover.
If the Packers have in fact committed to Starks, then we have to speculate just what that commitment entails if we are to fully comprehend the potential fantasy value of James Starks in 2012.
Read and React:
The Green Bay Packers were the 3rd best passing team in the NFL last season averaging 34.5 pass attempts per game. Conversely, the Packers were ranked 27th on the ground averaging 24.7 rushes per game.
Despite those rankings, the Packers still tried vehemently in 2011 to incorporate a serviceable ground game in an attempt to keep things balanced on offense. But injuries and inconsistent play out of the backfield limited and relegated this team to only 1,558 total team rushing yards (good for only a 3.9 average) with only 12 rushing TDs.
In addition to that, the lack of a consistent ground game helped contribute to the 41 sacks the Packers allowed.
The Packers want to run the ball more. If the Packers can accomplish establishment of a potent ground game, the better they can manage the game, protect their quarterback and ultimately add to an already dangerous offense.
So how does this translate to Fantasy Football and James Starks?
Potential, Potential, Potential:
There was a reason the Packers drafted James Starks out of UB in the sixth round. Starks was a standout at Buffalo, plain and simple. Starks set a career rushing record with 3,140 yards with 40 total touchdowns, while registering back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons as a sophomore and junior. Starks was also one of the best backs in the MAC—as well as the nation—and became the first 1,000-yard rusher in the Bulls’ Division I-A era.
In short, the Packers saw tremendous potential and rightfully so.
In 2010/2011, after a stint on the PUP list, Starks made his first big mark in the NFL breaking the Packers rookie post-season rushing record against Philadelphia in the 2011 NFC Wild Card game (23-123-0-5.3 ypc) showing a glimmer of what he can do if he remains healthy.
Against a stout Eagles defense ranked 8th overall (10th against the pass), the Packers found tremendous value in a potent ground game, which helped keep the Eagles pass defenders off-kilter with their overall scheme.
The Packers would not have beaten the Eagles without Starks.
The potential for Starks to become more than “just another running back” is huge. Not only because of what he is capable of, but also because he can potentially give the team what they need.
This potential—this untapped capability—becomes an interesting aspect for fantasy owners to pay attention to especially with camp rolling around shortly.
An Early Conclusion?
Let’s assume James Starks stays healthy for a full 16. In my opinion, the Packers are undoubtedly going to use him far more than they did in 2011—it just makes sense to do so.
If this does become the case, then yes, I believe James Starks falls into the outer realm of breakout candidate.
Don’t worry though. This does not mean a decreased value in any of the Packers receivers or even Aaron Rodgers, in fact, it could even slightly enhance their overall potential as well.
Think of it this way. The Packers NEED a consistent ground game to compliment the clinic they put on each week through the air, and Starks has MORE than enough potential to be that guy in Green Bay.
And for a RB who is currently projecting as a late sixth-round selection, you technically can’t fail grabbing him, even if he doesn't "breakout".
But even if the selection does seem like a risk, the potential reward more than compensates the latter.
I say breakout candidate in 2012.