Beef: Ryan Grant vs. James Starks

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).


About Starbonell

Starbonell is the co-founder of Sons of Roto and one of the most insightful and colorful fantasy analysts in the game. Mixing intelligent and well-researched advice with an entertaining style of writing that is easy to digest, Starbonell is the king of info-tainment.