James Starks' Fantasy Outlook After Eddie Lacy's Woes
Running back is an important position in fantasy football. Between injuries, splitting carries and underproducing, there are a number of factors that can affect production and force you to pursue other options.
Green Bay Packers RB James Starks wasn't on most fantasy football draft radars heading into the 2013 campaign, but the events of Green Bay's season opener could turn that situation around.
Lacy made his professional debut against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon but did not get off to a great start. Before halftime, the rookie had five carries for just four yards and lost a fumble that the Niners eventually turned into a touchdown.
Starks was then inserted into the game.
As noted by Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, head coach Mike McCarthy didn't make Lacy's punishment just a one-series thing:
Green Bay is sticking with James Starks for a second straight drive.— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) September 8, 2013
And thus, that decision has caused us to evaluate the fantasy situation in the Green Bay backfield before Week 1 is even in the books.
A three-year NFL veteran, Starks hasn't done much in the regular season during the early part of his career. His best production numbers were in 2011, when he rushed for 578 yards and one touchdown a season removed from helping the Packers win the Super Bowl the previous year.
With Lacy receiving discipline for fumbling, and Starks the main beneficiary of that punishment, could this be the year in which Starks emerges as a reliable weekly option in an RB2 or flex role?
Don't count on it.
For starters, Lacy is going to have a chance to atone for his first NFL fumble. A blue-chip prospect who some consider one of the biggest steals of the draft, Lacy has the talent and pedigree to help expand Green Bay's offense more than any other back on the roster.
That being said, the Packers are in win-now mode. In pursuit of another Super Bowl title, McCarthy can't afford to give away possessions against teams like San Francisco. As noted by Rotoworld's Adam Levitan, Lacy's fumble was hard to watch:
God, that Eddie Lacy fumble makes me want to puke. He's been benched in favor of James Starks.— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) September 8, 2013
The mistake will likely go down as an early season wake-up call for Lacy, but Starks certainly has a chance to become a reliable option if ball-security issues continue to plague the young starter moving forward.
When Green Bay came out in the second half against San Francisco, Lacy was back in the backfield, further advancing the idea that the rookie needed to be taught a lesson.
If those facts weren't enough to dissuade you from picking up Starks, the Packers are a hard enough team to figure out when it comes to weekly rushing production as it is.
Since Rodgers and the offense are typically geared toward the passing game, the rushing game has been a crapshoot the past few seasons. Injuries to Cedric Benson, Ryan Grant and others thrust into action have also affected production.
In 2012, Green Bay ranked No. 20 in the league in rushing yards per game with 106.4. The team's nine rushing touchdowns also put it in the league basement. Simply put, player injuries and lack of consistent production from one player has made Green Bay's backfield undesirable in fantasy football.
No one player had more than 134 carries for the Packers in 2012. Alex Green (464 yards) led the way. A wide receiver (Randall Cobb, 13.2) and QB (Rodgers, 4.8) led Green Bay in the yards-per-carry department.
Lacy was already a questionable weekly RB option before his fumble. With less overall talent out of the backfield, there's nothing right now to suggest Starks is a player who should be added in all formats.
Who will have the best fantasy year?
With that in mind, it's important to realize that Lacy, Starks and rookie Johnathan Franklin are the only running backs on the roster. John Kuhn can fill the spot in a pinch, but he's hardly a fantasy mainstay.
Starks might be worth adding if you need RB depth and have a roster spot that is open, but it's far too early to anoint him as a must-own. Proceed with caution unless you had a horrendous draft selecting backs.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant on Twitter.
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