By Jay Skurski
News Sports Reporter
James Starks hopes the injury bug has finally left his body.
The Niagara Falls native and Green Bay Packers running back took advantage of extended playing time last week after rookie Eddie Lacy suffered a concussion by rushing for 132 yards and a touchdown – becoming the first Green Bay runner to gain at least 100 yards since 2010.
Because of that, Starks was the hottest pickup of the week on the fantasy waiver wire. He went from being owned in just 0.3 percent of ESPN leagues to 72.1 percent.
“James Starks is definitely someone I look at as a starter and the ability to run as many times in a football game as needed,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week. “James will get the starting opportunity this week.”
Starks burst onto the scene during the 2010 postseason, rushing for 415 yards during the Packers’ four-game run to a Super Bowl championship. Since then, however, his career has been derailed by injuries – to his ankle, knee and toe, along with a bone bruise.
Starks was thought to be on the roster bubble for the Packers heading into training camp, especially after the team added Lacy in the second round and Johnathan Franklin in the fourth in April’s draft.
“I wasn’t really satisfied with what I did,” Starks told the Journal Sentinel. “I’m a hard worker no matter what. I wasn’t satisfied with the work I put in. I felt like I let my team down, my teammates, and I wanted to come back in the best shape of my life and show them I’m willing to work for whatever I get.”
Starks said he’s determined to play through the nagging injuries that come with being in the NFL this year.
“A lot of it is mental in the league,” he said. “Of course it’s a physical game. I mean you have to have a strong mind-set to continue to, you know, go through pounding and mentally know the playbook and everything. A lot of things around you. It’s a lot, so I mean, now I’m more focused.”
Starks and the Packers have a difficult matchup Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, but as the starter, he’s worthy of being at least a flex player in your lineup.
The runaway winner for most unexpected fantasy rise through the first two weeks is easily San Diego receiver Eddie Royal, who has five touchdowns in the Chargers’ 1-1 start. How amazing is that? From 2009 to ’12, Royal had five touchdowns total.
He’s tied for the lead among receivers with Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson with 41 points in standard-scoring ESPN leagues.
It raises the question: Can he keep it up?
The touchdown pace, of course, won’t continue, but with Malcom Floyd out because of a neck injury, Royal will get a lot of work. He’s seen seven red zone targets through the first two weeks, a good sign that he’ll remain a big part of the offense moving forward.
Royal’s rise has coincided with that of quarterback Philip Rivers, who has seen his ownership in ESPN leagues increase this week from 26.4 to 54.9 percent.
Rivers has thrown for seven touchdowns and only one interception through the first two weeks of the season. He’s earned himself a spot on rosters as at least a backup, and is a good sleeper candidate in Week Three against Tennessee. The Titans have allowed 500 passing yards and four touchdowns in the first two weeks.
Analyzing the Bills
He’s got three touchdown passes in his first two games, but EJ Manuel isn’t getting any fantasy love just yet. He’s not ranked among the top 26 quarterbacks in ESPN’s weekly rankings. Consider Manuel just a prospect at this time.
Running back C.J. Spiller torched the Jets for 325 combined yards and two touchdowns last season. The Jets, though, are giving up an average of just 7.5 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs through the first two weeks. Spiller is a starting back this week, but I’d sit Fred Jackson if you were considering him as a flex option.
Bills receiver Stevie Johnson has touchdowns in his first two games and has been targeted 16 times by Manuel. He should be in line for another busy day and is a good No. 2 wideout.
The Bills’ defense has been a popular addition this week, seeing an increase of 14.7 percent ownership in ESPN leagues. Given that the Jets have turned the ball over six times in the first two weeks, the Bills’ “D” is an attractive option in Week Three.
The Jets’ defense is a similar strong play against Buffalo, while running back Chris Ivory has flex appeal. So does receiver Jeremy Kerley, who had 133 yards and a touchdown last season against the Bills. Kerley, who is recovering from a concussion, is expected to play Sunday.