The Green Bay Packers faced an imposing showdown with the Seattle Seahawks defense in Week 2, but that didn’t stop the rushing attack from racking up yards on the way to a 27-17 victory. Thanks largely to Eddie Lacy’s injury, James Starks was the most impressive runner of the bunch and picked up some unexpected fantasy points in the process.
Here is a look at his final stat line:
Starks would not have received so many touches if Lacy hadn’t left in the first half with the injury. The Packers noted the former Alabama star was out for the game, and Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports pointed out Lacy couldn’t put any weight on his ankle and was carted to the locker room.
It’s too early to tell, but that doesn’t sound promising for a quick return.
That is a serious blow for the Packers because Lacy topped 1,100 rushing yards in each of the last two seasons as a perfect complement to Aaron Rodgers. Lacy is a bowling ball between the tackles who takes advantage of extra space Rodgers creates.
It is unfair to expect Starks to replicate those numbers even if he does start without Lacy, but he is a veteran in his sixth season in the league. He boasted 1,762 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in his career entering Sunday’s game, but he has never tallied more than 578 rushing yards in one year (2011, which was the only time he reached the 500-yard plateau).
The lack of monster individual seasons is concerning for fantasy owners, although Starks did enough to impress Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus:
If Starks is going to serve as a dark-horse fantasy contributor while Lacy heals, the offensive line must create enough holes to exploit. Fortunately for Packers fans, Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus ranked Green Bay as the fourth-best offensive line in the league coming into the season.
The Packers were a solid 11th in the NFL in rushing yards in 2014, and they tallied a solid 133 in a Week 1 win this year against the Chicago Bears and 127 Sunday. The offensive line’s track record means Starks should see some openings moving forward.
What’s more, the presence of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receivers Randall Cobb, James Jones, Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery makes it nearly impossible for opposing defenses to stack the box against the Packers, even without Jordy Nelson.
Rodgers is one of the best players in the league, and he controls the tempo of almost every game he plays with an ability to scramble from the pocket when protection breaks down and distribute the ball to a number of receivers. The fact Green Bay is 2-0 and beat the two-time defending NFC champs Sunday without Nelson is a testament to Rodgers’ greatness.
Starks is more valuable as a fantasy option because he plays alongside a quarterback who creates so many running lanes as a result of the respect he commands from the opposition.
Starks’ ability to get involved in the passing attack will also help in fantasy circles. The running back caught four passes Sunday and had 63 catches in his career before the contest. Those numbers don’t leap off the page, but it at least proves Rodgers can trust him coming out of the backfield on passing downs.
Just because Starks could be a part of a dynamic offense alongside a bonafide star quarterback doesn’t mean you should automatically plug him into your lineup.
For one, if Lacy’s injury is less serious than it appeared Sunday, he will be right back in the starting running back spot for the Packers. That severely limits Starks’ value because the touches won’t be there.
Another concern is the fact Starks has not carried the ball more than 133 times in a single year, and that came back in 2011. That was actually the only year he even reached 90 carries in a season.
Fantasy owners cannot just expect him to assume a major workload given that track record even without Lacy (and Sunday’s fumble won’t convince the coaching staff to give Starks 20 carries a game), and the Packers will likely use a number of short passes and screens as an extension of the rushing attack until their workhorse returns.
If Lacy is ruled out for an extensive time, Starks would be worth a flyer in deep leagues because he plays for the high-octane Green Bay attack. That means you should grab Starks from the waiver wire this week until there is a more definitive ruling on Lacy’s injury, but don’t immediately plug the Packers’ backup running back into your starting lineup.
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