NFL Fantasy Football: Packers RB James Starks Could Breakout, Worth Picking Up

Joe SContributor IOctober 19, 2010

Ryan Grant
Ryan GrantChristian Petersen/Getty Images

Ryan Grant goes down in the first game of the season. Panic sets in for those who drafted him as a backbone to their fantasy team. A lot of people may not have know who his backup even was.

The rest of the game Brandon Jackson got most of the carries, and John Kuhn, who is usually a fullback, punched in a short TD.

Sure enough, after the game every fantasy owner scrambled to try and get Brandon Jackson on their waiver wire and maybe even Kuhn. Those who have to bid on free agents may have spent a fortune to acquire Jackson.

I thought I was the luckiest guy in the world since I had picked him up shortly before the season started and hung on to him as a flier. I felt I had just hit the lottery. Boy, was I wrong.

The problem was everyone assumed that Brandon Jackson would just replace Ryan Grant's numbers. It turns out, there is a big skill difference between Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson.

Jackson has averaged almost eight fantasy points per week, while Grant averaged 13 last year. John Kuhn isn't helping matters, but neither running back is being very productive.

So, based on a hunch I made a trade for Marshawn Lynch, hoping Green Bay would trade for him; surely his talent could duplicate Grant's success. Well that didn't exactly work out, but he still got a huge boost in value with his move to Seattle.

So I figured, oh well, the Packers backfield is a fantasy wasteland now, especially with Rodgers scoring on short runs like he loves to do. But then I did a little more research.

That's when I started reading up on some guy named James Starks. Who is he? For those of you who don't know, he was just drafted by the Packers in the sixth round of the 2010 draft. He was off the radar this summer because he was so far down the depth chart and an injury cost him his senior season of college.

Well the depth chart is no longer a major concern. What about the injury?

A shoulder injury cost him his senior season at Buffalo where he was a standout during his earlier years, but that has healed.

A major hamstring pull cost him the offseason, and the Packers put him on the PUP list. He hasn't played competitive football since 2008.

But the Packers were reportedly "very high" on him over the summer and at 6'2", 220 pounds, he has the build of a feature back. "He's a big, athletic running back, and I think he has the ability to be a three-down player," said McCarthy, the Packers head coach, shortly after Ryan Grant's season ended. 

He began running full speed at the end of the September, which indicates he should be over his hamstring injury.

Local Green Bay media does not expect him to play in the game this week, even though he is eligible to return  in Week 7, so do not get impatient if he doesn't start right away.

We have certainly seen some crazy things happen this season in fantasy football, and James Starks' upside is higher than possibly anyone on the waiver wire. I picked him up a few weeks ago after reading into all this, making sure I got him before the word got out on major sites like ESPN.

Pick him up, stash him and monitor his progress. I'm not guaranteeing he explodes this year, but there is certainly a chance. And it could be the difference between winning and losing your league.

Unlike other backup running backs, he does not need an injury to the starter to become valuable. Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn have played very poorly, and if Starks plays well, the job is his.