Most fantasy owners have been burned by a sleeper pick or two at some point. That is why a lot of people reading this article are starting to feel a lot of anxiety and maybe even a sharp pain in their temple. James Starks was a popular sleeper pick in 2011 fantasy football leagues after an epic performance in the 2010 Green Bay Packers playoff run. Fantasy owners may have passed up guys like Fred Jackson, Willis McGahee, and Beanie Wells to draft Starks. Obviously that did not work out so well since Starks rushed for only 578 yards and 1 touchdown.
There is a term out there for guys like James Starks, however: post-hype sleeper. The main risk with Starks last season was that he was competing with veteran running back Ryan Grant for playing time. Grant is not an exciting player, but the coaches put their trust in him over the younger Starks. Ryan Grant is now a free agent and the Packers do not look to be bringing him back. This leaves the door wide open for James Starks. Word out of Green Bay is that the starting job is Starks’ to lose and fantasy owners will have to decide if they trust him not to lose it.
Starks is an explosive runner that can catch the ball out of the backfield and score from the goal-line. The Green Bay offense is going to get a lot of scoring opportunities and should open up big running lanes as defenses will be focused on stopping the pass. He does have a tendency to look lost at times, but hopefully he matures and learns to keep his focus.
The only competition Starks has at this point in the year is Brandon Saine and Alex Green. Saine is average at best and Alex Green is coming off a torn ACL. He could also be hampered by injuries, as Starks has not played a full season since his junior year at Buffalo in 2008. Injuries are a risk fantasy football owners just have to live with, however, and Starks’ upside makes him well worth the risk.
With so many teams going to two, and even three, running back rotations, guys who will get the majority of snaps are at a premium. With a strong off-season and pre-season, James Starks will be in line to carry the load for the Packers out of the backfield and could very well finish the 2012 fantasy football season as a top tier running back.
Follow Brent on Twitter @TheFantasyDick for daily fantasy sports updates. You can read more from him at The Fantasy Dick.