Hold on a second, the Packers may try to balance their offense more this season, that means more love for James Starks.
The Packers Have A Back Attack
Nothing in the NFL is a certainty. Between injuries, parity, inconsistency, holdouts, and contracts, the variables in an NFL season are endless. The only thing that even comes close to a sure thing is the Green Bay Packers offense. Like it or not, the scoreboard at Lambeau is going to host some big numbers year in and year out.
James Starks will play a large part in that this year. Ryan Grant is out; the throne belongs to Starks. It’s a humble throne, admittedly; the Packers’ running game is a distant second fiddle to the air attack. The fact remains that Starks is a starting running back in a prolific offense who will see a lot of touches this year and has the physical skills to capitalize.
Starks has the chance to be a major sleeper this draft. Why? What you don’t know about him is that he’s strong, fast, elusive, has decent hands and gets in the way of pass rushers. For those skills and the vacant starting spot, he’ll be on the field at a Ray Rice-like or MJD-like rate. Given his 4.5” 40-yard dash time and a respectable 4.3 yards-per-carry average, Starks simply needs more touches to put up big numbers. With no competition in sight, the day is for Starks to seize. Fantasy owners better carpe that diem, too.
As for the rest of the Packers offense, nothing has changed. That’s a good thing for Packers fans and fantasy owners alike. 2011 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers put up one of the best statistical seasons in history. Rodgers threw a touchdown on a ridiculous 9% of his throws, 45 in all. His passer rating was the best the league has ever seen.
The fact is that there is even more upside. Rodgers will make the same plays; he’s a smart and athletic quarterback who will perform to the standard he set last year. What’s improved is the staff around him. Jermichael Finley has been hard at work with Packers’ coaches cleaning up his catching technique after dropping an embarrassing 10.9% of catchable balls over the last three seasons. James Jones’ catchable ball drop rate over that same time frame was 14.4%; Donald Driver’s was 12.2%. With better focus and renewed emphasis on technique, all three could contribute to further pad Rodgers’ statistics, as well as their own.
The other major upgrade for the Packers comes from their offensive line, though replenishment may be a more suitable word than upgrade. The Packers’ o-line was hit hard by injury last year. Tackles Brian Bulaga and Chad Clifton missed significant time and fill-in Derrick Sherrod went down with a horrific broken leg. Filling the void was a nobody, Marshall Newhouse, who performed admirably on short notice. With a year under his belt and the starting spot for the taking, Newhouse will be ready to play this season opposite a healthy Bulaga. New starting center Jeff Saturday will bring expertise and a hard nose to the gap left by loss Scott Wells, signed in the offseason by the Rams.
With fewer drops on first down passes and with fewer sacks thanks to an experienced and skilled offensive line, the Packers may not have to rely on the long-yardage aerial attack as much, leaving the door wide open for Starks to make a big fantasy impact.
Look out for the Pack this year, as always, but keep a special eye on Starks. You’ll be sorry if you don’t.
by Jimbo Slice