We continue our look our look at players who are facing a make or break year season (or even training camp) with James Starks. Starks has been a player who people have raved about his talent ever since he was drafted in 2010, but the team has yet to see the talent truly develop. Will he be able to finally show what he can do in 2013?
Why his back is against the wall
There has been one constant about Starks’ tenure with the Green Bay Packers: injuries. Starks was a high risk low reward pick in the sixth round whose stock fell because of a shoulder injury in his senior year of college. He then came into camp with some hamstring problems and ended up on the PUP list, missing most of the season. When Starks did enter the line up in 2010 he had a fantastic run and playoff performances for the ages. In 2011 he started 13 games and put up decent stats until an ankle injury held him out of the rest of the regular season. In 2012 he started camp suffering from a turf toe injury which sidelined him until week 6 against the Texans. His season then ended early again suffering a knee injury in the week 12 victory of the Vikings. Long story short, Starks has been unreliable. In fact in his three year career as a Packer he has played only 22 regular season games.
Why he could be part of the Packers’ long term plan
At the beginning of the 2012 season the general expectation was the Starks would be the starting running back. He has the capability. He runs with power and has a good burst of speed. All this was shown in week 12 game against the Vikings where he was able carry the ball 15 times for 66 yards and a 22 yard touchdown (the longest TD run by a Packer in 2012). He has also improved in the passing game becoming a decent option catching the ball and an adequate blocker.
Chances of making the 53 man roster in 2013
At the moment those chance have got to be 50/50, but this could drop significantly if the Packers pick one of the highly rated running backs in the draft this year such as Alabama’s Eddie Lacy or Wisconsin’s Montee Ball. Starks has an affordable contract this year and should have a legitimate chance to show what he can do in training camp. The problem is that this year the Packers will probably have more talent at the running back position then they did last year at this time. The combination of a fully healed Alex Green, DuJuan Harris, and the possibility of Cedric Benson's return or the presence of a highly rated rookie is a far cry from the mix the Packers had last year at this time.
What he has to do to be part of the Packers’ long term plan
The biggest thing he has to do is stay healthy. Even if Starks beats the odds and makes the team in 2013 he will still need to be available for the full season and start to shed his injury prone label. Staying healthy may not be enough however; Starks will also have to show the upside that caused Ted Thompson to draft him in the first place. If Starks can show he still has that speed and power that the team craves then there still may be a place for him. If Starks continues to come up short, or suffers an injury early in training camp, then he will probably be on the outside looking in quickly.