The Green Bay Packers running backs coach, Jerry Fontenot, dropped a bomb earlier this week when he alluded that one of their goals was to evenly disperse the amount of carries between veteran Ryan Grant and youngster James Starks.
For fantasy fans, it’s hard to stomach that the Packers will now change to what has become an epidemic in the NFL, the halfback platoon. As a long-time follower of the Packers, I’ll attempt to provide some insight on which running back will be more valuable to your fantasy team.
Ryan Grant, who’s coming off an ankle injury that ended his season in week one last year, is currently being drafted on average around the late fourth round/early fifth round area (Average Draft Position = 57th overall). Compare that to 2009 (ADP = 29.6) and 2010 (ADP = 28.5) and that’s a considerable drop. Yes, James Starks is going to cut into his carries, but did Starks show us enough in the playoffs and in training camp to steal Grant’s job as the feature back.
I’m not so sure. In the preseason, Starks received only four carries to Grant’s 18 carries and in last year’s playoffs, Starks ran 81 times for 315 yards (3.89 yards per carry). Take away the 123 yard effort against the Eagles and Starks wasn’t overly impressive, but rather a legitimate fill-in.
Moreover, Starks looked a lot better catching the ball in the preseason and could prove to be a great option on third downs, similar to what Brandon Jackson did before he failed at becoming an every-down back. If Starks does mold into this kind of role with the team, Grant’s stock will have a significant rise.
Starks is currently being drafted in the seventh round (ADP = 90.6) and I think that’s about where he should be. To me, Grant has proven his value and doesn’t appear to have lost any of the talent he possessed prior to his ankle injury. Starks has a lot of raw ability, but has much to learn before he becomes a feature back.
Those who think Grant is old and too risky for injury purposes are just crazy. Firstly, he’s only 28 and secondly, he had never missed a game prior to his devastating ankle injury in 2010.
The Packers have one of the premier offenses in the NFL, thus I think Grant is arguably one of the most underrated players in all of fantasy this season. We all know he can put up top-notch fantasy numbers, like he did in 2009 with 1450 total yards and 11 touchdowns, and I expect him to do much of the same in 2011.
Starks’ time will come, but right now, I think he settles into the secondary running back in the Packers offensive attack. The good thing about the dreadful halfback platoon is that there’s always one guy who establishes his self as the main man in the running game and Grant that’s guy!
Do you think I’m completely wrong and James Starks is the better fantasy option? Let me know by commenting below!
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.