Starks and Recreation
Photo Credit: Gabriel Cervantes
On the heels of a report that both Ryan Grant and James Starks will “get an equal amount of rushing attempts Thursday night against New Orleans,” it became evident that your boy had to put out a “Beef: The Series” concerning the supposed RB committee in Green Bay.
Hope you haven’t eaten yet, because you’re about to get your face filled with a whole mess of “Beef.”
More after the jump:
During the offseason, a fair number of fantasy owners and pundits threw their support behind “Tony” Starks. Between his increased role in the Packers’ post-season run, younger age, and the fact that Grant is coming off ankle surgery, some people had Starks pegged as breakout candidate before camp even opened. Once glowing reports on Starks emerged from camp, the hype continued to grow. Boners for Starks reached an all-time high right after the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that he and Grant will be splitting carries in the season opener. Starks definitely has a lot of talent. A physical runner with good speed and the ability to make plays in the passing game, Starks could easily be a top 10 fantasy RB if given a full slate of touches. He has more “upside” than Grant, but is he really ready to become the lead back in Green Bay?
Yes Grant is coming off a pretty serious injury and is the older player at a position dominated by youth, but it’s not that serious. He’s only 28 (just three years older than Starks) and since his injury happened in Week One of last year, Grant has had ample time to get healthy. Grant doesn’t offer much in the passing game, but he’s very good between the tackles and is the type of RB that can wear down a defense. The most interesting (and debated) aspect of Grant this offseason/preseason was his contract. Since the Packers held onto him at the start of camp for the price of $5.25 million, many thought he was a lock to start since there was no way the Packers would pay a guy that much money to ride the bench. Then those rumors started that the Packers might cut him due to his salary and Starks’ emergence, prompting people to declare the Starks era underway. Grant ended up taking a little less money to stick around, but he’s still getting over $4 million this year and that’s a good indication that, at worst, he’ll be the lead back of a platoon.
The money coming to Grant is ample enough ammunition for the argument against Starks, but I got more bullets in the chamber. Everyone who talks about Starks’ “emergence” in the post-season last year is full of shit. Look at his production during the Pack’s playoff run, and you see a player with one superb performance (in the opening game against the Eagles where he ran for 123 yards on 23 carries) and a bunch of weak ones (3.3 YPC in all other contests). So let’s not act like the Packers were not able to win a Super Bowl without Starks. Even if you want to believe that Starks was a monster in the playoffs, what the hell else has he done other than average 3.5 yards in the regular season last year? I’m not saying Grant is a beast capable of finishing the year as the top RB in fantasy, but let’s not forget that homeboy was gone by the time the second round wrapped in fantasy drafts last season.
Still holding onto that report that the two will split carries? Did you even read the damn article, or are you just regurgitating the same blip highlighted by all the fantasy news sources? Here’s the link again. Go ahead, read it. I’ll wait...
Still feel like the Packers are gearing up for a platoon? Because to me, it looks like they are just trying to get Starks some additional work. Keep in mind that Starks dealt with an ankle injury in training camp and was limited to just four carries this preseason, so the team probably just wants him to get some extra work in (though I’ll admit it sounds stupid on the Packers’ part to experiment during a regular season game). The bottom line is this: nothing in that report indicates that Starks is about to take over as the starting back and bets are hedged throughout the article regarding this whole “splitting carries” business.
Winner: After putting Starks in a powerful Torture Rack, Grant takes this bout cleanly in a total squash.
Starks had his chance to capitalize last year with Grant out, and he couldn’t even out-carry the likes of John Kuhn and Brandon Jackson. Now I’m supposed to believe that a player who looked very unpolished last year has all of sudden vaulted to the status of every-down horse? Personally, I don’t give a shit about what a bunch of nerd-wad beat reporters say about Starks “looking better” than Grant in camp. For all we know, the two backs’ competition on the field those days was different or maybe they just happened to catch an eye-opening play from Starks in between scarfing down a French Cruller. Point is, the young, backup RB always gets a ton of love in training camp. What I do care about is this: coach Mike McCarthy has traditionally preferred to use one primary RB in his offenses. Sure that changed after Grant went down last year, but that was because he had a bunch of bums doing jack shit on the ground. Now that the Pack have their true feature runner back in the fold, expect them to lean on Grant as the season wears on and for him to be a far superior fantasy option to Starks.
Since we're all about democracy here at SoR, we'll let you cast your vote in the below poll. Feel free to sprinkle the comments section with your thoughts (so long as they line up with my views).
Lost in all this is the fact that neither back had many touches. They will cancel out each other in terms of production, making Starks the obvious choice for value. Starbs is right about Starks lack of pass blocking. Roman Harper literally walked past him for his sack on Rodgers, but Grant's ability to pick up blitzes isn't going to make him a week-to-week starter. Whoever scores the TD is the only back worth starting. Good luck predicting that. James Starks 1. Ryan Grant 0.
@andrewakamds You make a good point. McCarthy generally uses one back for 18-20 touches per game, but if he really is gonna split the two, then neither has much value. I still think that if McCarthy goes to one lead back who seperates himself, it's gonna be Grant who is a proven commodity at wearing down defenses while doing everything else well. Starks would make more sense as a "run while they are ahead" back, which admittedly means he could see a good number of touches with this diesel offense. Stupid Aaron Rodgers.
Starks outshining Grant last night change your opinion at all Starbs? Players recovering from ACL tears always take 12-18 months to come back at full speed, just ask Wes Welker owners last year. I'm not worried that he'll break down, but Grant looked plodding at times last night and Starks was explosive at times. If I'm a Grant owner (which I'm not), I'm concerned.
@donnypump Not at all. First off, Grant looked good early on and as I said in the post, it sounded like the Packers wanted to get Starks more work coming off a four carry preseason. Notice that Starks got a lot of carries with the Packers up two scores. Also, I wouldn't call Starks' performance last nite "explosive." Dude was facing a weak Saints D that was playing the pass heavily by the time Starks got the bulk of his carries. His TD run was through a wide open hole with some poor tackling helping him. Plus, we all saw how he almost got Rodgers killed in blown pass protection coverage: he's still raw there and that's gonna cost him time on the field in certain spots.
As great as everyone said Starks looked, the two produced similar per-touch numbers and keep in mind that Starks got his in much more favorable situations (i.e.- with the D playing the run and after the Saints D appeared tired after getting their ass handed to them by A-Ron and company in the early going). He also got stuffed a few times when the D was playing the pass, but you won't hear any analysts talk about that.
Bottom line: I still like Grant more and consider him a fantastic buy-low opp right now.
Now if only Starks could block/find holes with that same gusto...
I do like Starks as a talent, but I think he's probably far from a finished product. Keep in mind he played at a mickey mouse program in college (SUNY BUF) and looked overmatched more often than not last year. He definitely has the tools to be a very good RB, but if he was really that close to being an every-down back, the Pack woulda let Grant walk instead of ponying up 4.5 mil. Believe dat.
What I've heard from my Packers insider is that Starks is lowering his pads more this season and running with gusto. Apparently he was doing a Daniel Thomas impression last year.
wow. Starks is clearly more talented, it showed last season and it showed again Thursday night. Teams don't cut their lead backs pay... I see it just the opposite, their allowing Grant to lose his job with dignity by splitting the carries.
@Grimace C.J. Spiller is plenty talented too, but what the hell is he doing these days? The Pack cut his pay by a mil, but 4.5 mil for a backup RB is way too much. As for the team "allowing Grant to lose his job with dignity".... this is the NFL. There is no such thing as "dignity," even with a franchise as storied as the Packers. If a dude ain't cutting it, he's getting cut (especially if he has that much money coming to him).
I agree that Thursday's game makes it seem like the Starks era is underway, but he clearly still has major pass protection problems (on a team that throws as much as Green Bay, that's a recipe for spending lots of time on the sidelines). Grant isn't a wow talent, but he wears down defenses and does all the little things right. Sure his upside isn't as high as Starks, but you have to look at all the factors (not just raw talent) to evaluate how the playing time will be doled out.
Mark my words, Grant is gonna come out on top.