James Starks became one of the biggest breakout players in Week 2 of the NFL season, but that does not guarantee long-term success for the Green Bay Packers running back.
The 27-year-old veteran came into the game early in the first quarter against the Washington Redskins after Eddie Lacy was forced to leave with a concussion.
According to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, it is unknown when the starter will return. It is never easy predicting timelines when head injuries are involved, but this could be a limited opportunity for Starks.
If Lacy is healthy enough to return, he will likely continue getting the bulk of the carries in this offense. He was drafted in the second round, and head coach Mike McCarthy plans for him to be the featured player going forward.
According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, McCarthy had this to say about Lacy after Week 1:
I answered the question continuously through training camp, my goal for him is to be a three-down player and keep him in there and keep him playing. Because when he's in there, I mean, he's a fine young football player.
Lacy played most of the snaps against the San Francisco 49ers and had 14 rushing attempts against the tough defense. The only other running back with a carry was fullback John Kuhn.
If he had not gotten hurt early in Week 2, he likely would have continued to get the majority of touches from the backfield.
Starks has been with the Packers since 2010. Although he has been injured for much of his career, McCarthy is well aware of what the running back can do. If he had faith in him to this point, the team would not have drafted two running backs last April, including Johnathan Franklin.
When both are healthy, which player should have the bigger role on the Packers?
It is also important to note that Starks had inflated numbers in the game based on the matchup and how the game was going.
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense built up a huge lead early in the game and went into halftime leading 24-0. At this point, the running back only had eight carries in the pass-heavy attack.
Fortunately for Starks, the Packers were able to slow things down in the second half by running the ball. This gave him a lot more carries than the team was able to provide Lacy in Week 1. He ended up finishing with 132 rushing yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
Of course, the Redskins also did not provide that difficult of a matchup against the run. One week earlier, they allowed the Philadelphia Eagles to rush for 263 yards on Monday Night Football.
Starks likely will not be able to provide this type of production again, and will likely be closer to the 3.6 yards per carry that he finished with last season.
The Packers are smart enough to realize this and will not simply give the veteran player the starting job going forward. Instead, they are going to do whatever it takes to develop the talented young running back with much more upside.
To make matters worse for Starks, Green Bay has a relatively tough matchup next week against the Cincinnati Bengals, followed by a bye week. Unless Lacy's injury is incredibly serious, he should be back by Week 5.
Anyone who plans on picking up Starks must follow the Lacy situation very closely.
If the rookie is seriously injured, this might be a solid acquisition as someone who can take over the starting spot in Green Bay's backfield. However, a return by next game or even within the next month limits Starks' upside from a fantasy perspective.
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