James Starks vs. Johnathan Franklin: Fantasy Outlook for Eddie Lacy's Handcuffs
The second-round pick out of Alabama is arguably the most talented player in the backfield rotation, and he should be able to emerge rather early in the season.
However, as with most backs, there is always a chance the rookie out of Alabama will go down with injury and need to be replaced.
With DuJuan Harris out for the upcoming season—the back who finished as last year’s starter injured his knee in the preseason—the top options behind Lacy are veteran James Starks and fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin.
For fantasy owners who are taking a gamble on Lacy, it would be wise to wait and see how he performs before investing in a handcuff.
As of Tuesday morning, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has yet to name his starting running back. Lacy may end up being the handcuff himself if Starks gets the nod.
The fourth-year man out of Buffalo is the only healthy rusher with NFL experience, even if he has not been utilized much since being drafted. 2011 was arguably Starks' regular-season outing, as the 27-year-old participated in 13 games and carried 133 times for 578 yards with one touchdown.
Starks did step up during the Packers’ Super Bowl run after the 2010 campaign, participating in all four playoff games and generating 315 yards and a touchdown on 81 carries.
He holds regular career numbers of 233 rushes for 934 yards and two scores, along with 35 receptions for 262 yards. It would not be a complete surprise if he was named the starter.
On the other hand, Franklin isn't likely to see much action in 2013. The fourth-round pick out of UCLA hasn't found a way to emulate his production from the collegiate level now that he is in the pros.
Although the young man racked up more than 4,400 yards and 30 touchdowns during his four years with the Bruins, he has not been able to do much against bigger, faster opponents during the preseason.
At 5’10”, 205 pounds, Franklin is not particularly big or strong, but he’s also not fast enough to scoot away from defenders and break into the second level.
Regarding Franklin, an NFL scout told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "He looks like his numbers (poor in scrimmages and preseason games). He's not a real impressive guy. He plays small, and he doesn't play fast. I kind of liked him in college because he was so productive. But if you didn't know he was a draft pick, you'd think he was a free agent."
Which Packers back will have the best season?
Unless you are in the deepest of deep leagues, it would be wise to avoid any backups on the Packers at this juncture. Lacy isn’t a bad choice to stash on the end of your bench, but until he’s the unquestioned starter, there is reason to be skeptical.
Should you feel the need to handcuff Lacy—due to his toe injury or other concerns—go with Starks. Franklin clearly isn’t ready to make an impact at the next level and will likely be riding the pine for much of the 2013 campaign.
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