Nick Shook on fantasy football: With Packers searching for a running game, James Starks could be the answer for you and them

By Nick Shook
Beacon Journal copy editor
Read full column on Ohio.com

It’s time to cut bait and move on, folks.

You drafted Alfred Morris high, right? That no longer justifies keeping him. I just cut him myself, finally, after weeks of empty starts.

I would have liked to swap him for Jeremy Langford, but my opponent was too quick, and rode his 22-point output to a 107-105 comeback win over me. Morris hasn’t even exceeded 12 points in a game this season. Sometimes, that’s just the way the fantasy cookie crumbles.

We’re also letting go of another high pick this week, but I’ll let you read further.

Add

James Starks, running back, Green Bay Packers (owned in 40.5 percent of ESPN leagues)

Back in 2008, in the final game at Akron’s Rubber Bowl, the Zips played the Buffalo Bulls in front of about 30,000 people.

I know, I too am surprised that that many people watched a game there.

Buffalo’s starting running back was a bigger guy, who ran with decisive cuts that were reminiscent of pro backs. My father and I concluded that this guy might be a good runner in the NFL.

That player was James Starks. So far, I think Pops and I were right.

The Packers’ running situation is nearing crisis mode. Supposed back-of-the-future Eddie Lacy has piled mediocrity (five attempts for 10 yards) on top of his fumbling problem (one lost fumble Sunday). Some of it can be attributed to injury concerns, but it’s clear he isn’t the workhorse he was expected to be, in fantasy or otherwise.

Starks isn’t a huge upgrade on the ground, though. He has been better in a rushing attack in the past, but his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield cannot be overlooked. He racked up 14 of his 17 points receiving passes from Aaron Rodgers — and let’s face it, there isn’t a better quarterback to receive it from, except maybe Tom Brady — including a touchdown. He was targeted eight times, almost as many times as he carried the ball (10).

And word out of Green Bay is that he is looking like the favorite to see more snaps as the leading back in the Packers’ offense. Starks is trending upward.

Tyrod Taylor, quarterback, Buffalo Bills (owned in 58.9 percent of ESPN leagues)

Wait, you dropped Tyrod?! How could you?

As the self-appointed conductor of the Tyrod Train, I am insulted. But I get it, injuries can be frightening in life. They’re painful, they shake your foundation and threaten your future. Those of you who were wise and fortuitous enough to keep Taylor, pat yourself on the back. Those of you who took it one step further and started him on Sunday coming off injury, well, I hope you’ve recovered from the party that was the win over the Miami Dolphins. And to you unfortunate, gun-jumping souls who cut Taylor, I have one message for you: go pick him back up, before someone else does.

Taylor went 11-of-12 for 185 yards and a touchdown. These aren’t eye-popping numbers, and yes, the Bills have failed to live up to expectations so far. But Sammy Watkins might finally be healthy. LeSean McCoy is closer to full strength, too, and has a pretty reliable backup in Karlos Williams (a good handcuff option), just in case.

What does this all mean? Taylor is finally operating with almost all of his weapons available in his arsenal. Don’t be surprised if the Bills make a second-half push, and Taylor is leading the charge.

Corey Brown, wide receiver, Carolina Panthers (owned in 1 percent of ESPN leagues)

The player formerly (and affectionately) known as “Philly” at Ohio State has been a bit of a disappointment for the Panthers so far in his career. A prolonged case of the drops and a switch back to his government name hasn’t seemed to help much — until the past two weeks.

After reaching double-digits just once in seven weeks, Brown has scored 11 points in each of his past two games. The Panthers are a team is on fire, earning a close victory over the Packers to improve to 8-0. With Cam Newton leading the offense, and the lack of a true No. 1 receiving option, trying to catch lightning in a bottle with Brown (against a Tennessee Titans defense that ranks 22nd against the pass) isn’t a bad idea with a deeper roster at your disposal.

Drop

Dion Lewis, running back, New England Patriots

Lewis is the latest back to hit injured reserve with a serious knee injury, and this one strikes an emotional chord with me.

A couple seasons ago, Lewis was a new arrival with the Browns after starting his career as LeSean McCoy’s backup with the Philadelphia Eagles. Lewis showed plenty of potential, flashes of big-play ability and looked guaranteed to earn a roster spot. Then he suffered a fractured fibula in preseason action, missed the season and was eventually cut.

The savvy nature of Bill Belichick has been on full display this season when Lewis has been on the field. The all-powerful coach signed Lewis to a futures contract on the final day of 2014, while the Patriots were just getting a Super Bowl run started. Lewis emerged in 2015 as the smartest addition in the league, making plays as a runner and a pass-catcher, and leaving those quick-trigger fantasy owners who added him in Week 1 strutting around with ear-to-ear grins on their faces.

Those grins are now frowns — despondent, woe-is-me frowns. Lewis suffered a torn ACL on a non-contact cut in Sunday’s win over Washington, again cutting his season too short. The Patriots will fill in the gaps with LeGarrette Blount (don’t rush to add him, he’s owned in over 93 percent of ESPN leagues) and Brandon Bolden, but neither possess the dual-threat capabilities of Lewis.

Here’s to hoping he has a quick and successful recovery.

C.J. Anderson, running back, Denver Broncos

Anderson was supposed to be a machine for fantasy owners.

The only thing he’s produced is frequent frustration.

The running back who broke out in 2014 hasn’t matched that output this season, splitting carries with fellow back Ronnie Hillman. He rushed for a team-high 34 yards last week. Talk about a snoozer.

The combination of a lack of consistent touches (severely hindering any momentum he might get going) and low yardage outputs makes Anderson expendable. After nine weeks, it isn’t getting any better. Cut him loose for a better option.

Dwayne Bowe, wide receiver, Cleveland Browns

Haha! Just kidding. I know you already cut him long, long ago. Now if only the Browns would follow suit …

Follow Nick Shook on Twitter at @TheNickShook or contact him at nshook@thebeaconjournal.com.

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