Fantasy Football Sleeper Watch 2012: James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJuly 11, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 08:  James Starks #44 of the Green Bay Packers runs between Junior Galette #93 and Jonathan Casillas #52 of the New Orleans Saints during the NFL opening season game at Lambeau Field on September 8, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Saints 42-34.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The effects of today's pass-happy National Football League have certainly had an impact on fantasy football drafts this summer. Gone are the days where the first rounds of drafts were dominated by the running back position.

Many fantasy owners are taking wide receivers, quarterbacks and even tight ends early in the hopes that they can find a gem or two at running back later in drafts with the potential to blossom into a weekly fantasy starter.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Green Bay Packers running back James Starks.

The third-year pro is currently being drafted, on average, in the 10th round in drafts conducted at as the 39th running back off the board. Those numbers more or less jibe with Starks' 2011 production, as he checked in as the 41st-ranked running back in point-per-reception leagues after tallying just under 800 total yards and scoring a single touchdown.

However, there are a couple of reasons to believe that Starks could easily outproduce his current average draft position, even in an offense that likes to throw the ball as much as quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers do.

The first is the simple fact that Starks appears set for a significant increase in touches, which should equate to a boost in stats compared to last season. According to Fox Sports Wisconsin, veteran running back Ryan Grant has expressed interest in returning to Green Bay, but the Packers don't appear to want him back, which would leave Starks as the lead back for the green and gold this season.

Granted, second-year pros Brandon Saine and Alex Green as well as fullback Alex Kuhn will all work their way into the mix in the offensive backfield.

With that said, even if we add just 40 percent of Grant's 2011 numbers with the Packers to Starks' output, he becomes a 1,100-plus total yards ball-carrier and comes within a handful of points of putting up top-25 numbers relative to last season.

Toss in the possibility of another touchdown or three and the jump in receptions that Starks, who is a superior pass-catcher out the backfield to Grant, should see. Then you have the very real possibility that Starks could flirt with fantasy RB2 production and at the very least he's a good bet for solid RB3 numbers this season.

Either way, at his current ADP James Starks represents an excellent value selection in fantasy football drafts, and value picks are what win championships.