GREEN BAY WI - DECEMBER 05: James Starks #44 of the Green Bay Packers runs against the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field on December 5 2010 in Green Bay Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the 49ers 34-16. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
James Starks has made just two starts in his NFL career. Because of injuries, he didn't play a down of football in the league until he was 24 and he missed out on games in his first season as a regular contributor. Because of Starks' relative inexperience and lack of durability, lots of Green Bay Packers fans are concerned with the team's lack of depth at running back. Honestly, it's for good reason, but that doesn't mean that Starks isn't going to play well in 2012.
Starks is entering camp as the No. 1 back, though, and that counts for something. Unlike previous seasons, he's going to get a full training camp with the Packers, and he's going to be taking first team snaps during that camp. Because he's going through that for the first time and because he's the No. 1 back heading into the season, his numbers are going to shoot way, way up if he avoids injury. That's why Starks is our pick for the No. 1 player most likely to improve.
James Starks' stats in 2011: 133 rushes, 578 yards, 4.3 YPC, 29 receptions, 216 yards, 1 total TD - Starks split carries almost evenly with Ryan Grant last season. The now departed Grant carried the ball 134 times. Alex Green and Brandon Saine should get plenty of touches in 2012, while John Kuhn gets some carries as well, but Starks should see a big uptick in his carry numbers.
Why I might be full of it - Because of his injury history. We haven't seen Starks go through a full season without an injury that caused him to miss time since he was in college. He has to prove that he's durable enough to carry the ball 200+ times in a year and play in 15-16 games. Until he does it, we don't know if he can do it.
Projected stats for Starks in 2012 - 220 carries, 946 yards, 4.3 YPC, 35 receptions, 280 yards, 6 total TDs - Starks won't be a workhorse by any stretch of the imagination, but this still represents a massive increase in production from last season, more than we can realistically project for any other player in the team. Randall Cobb and Clay Matthews aren't going to see their stats increase this dramatically. I'm not expecting Starks to be a superstar, but I am expecting him to perform at a slightly higher level than he did last season while getting a much higher volume of touches.