This week’s Sleeper Watch features our first repeat visitor to the column. The two players featured this week lead their respective clubs in carries on Sunday, and each have a juicy matchup next week. With next week marking the start of the fantasy playoffs for some, exploiting a favorable matchup when determining one’s last flex spot could be the difference between squeaking out a win and moving on, and going fishing.
James Starks | RB | Green Bay | 3 percent Yahoo! ownership
James Starks makes his second appearance of the season in this column after carrying the ball 18 times for 73 yards on Sunday in his first active game of the season for the Packers. Those who wish to read a full write up about Starks that includes his measurables and notable college statistics should check this out. In short, he appears to be the best runner of the healthy Packers’ running backs, and now that he is healthy, should get the bulk of the carries going forward. Brandon Jackson is the teams clear preferance as its third-down/receiving running back, and John Kuhn appears to be the feature goal line runner, so Starks role may be limited to first and second down between the twenties. That said, Starks is a capable receiver out of the backfield, and does have a large enough build that if he’s successful, could allow him to take over an all-purpose, all-encompassing role in the crowded Packers backfield.
Those considering investing in Starks as a flex option in deep leagues should do so immediately, as he has very favorable matchups the next two weeks. The Packers will be playing the Detroit Lions on the road on Sunday. The Lions defense has been wretched against the run this year, allowing teams to gash them for 127.4 yards per game and 4.6 yards per carry going into Sunday’s contest against the Bears. They have also rolled out the red carpet and allowed opponents to score 17 touchdowns (a total that includes Sunday’s game against the Bears). Following up the December 12 showdown with the Lions, the Packers travel to New England to play the Patriots, another team that’s soft against the run. The Patriots have allowed teams to run for 110.6 yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry going into their Monday Night Football game with the New York Jets. Those in desperate need of help at their flex in medium-to-large leagues should consider scooping up Starks.
James Davis | RB | Washington | 2 percent Yahoo! ownership
Cut by the Browns earlier in the season thanks to the emergence of Peyton Hillis, James Davis has found a new home in the Washington Redskins backfield. Playing for Lucifer… errr Mike Shanahan has been a blessing and a curse for running backs in the past. Shanahan’s Denver Bronco offenses were well known for producing 1,000 yard rushers of varying levels of skill that included, in no particular order, Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary, Clinton Portis, Reuben Droughns and Tatum Bell. Unfortunately, in addition to the good, producing 1,000 yard rushers, Shannahan was also responsible for driving fantasy owners mad during that time frame, constantly shuffling between different running backs seemingly on a whim. The importance of my Shanahan diatribe is that while Davis has led the Redskins in carries the past two weeks, it is entirely possible Shanahan changes course and decides to once again lean on Keiland Williams as the team’s featured runner.
Sunday saw Davis lead the Redskins running backs in carries (nine), yards rushing (40), receptions (three) and yards receiving (41). While the numbers aren’t eye popping by any stretch of the imagination, they are well rounded and indicate the team may choose to use Davis in an every-down capacity. Like with Starks, his next few games are against soft run defenses that include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bucs are the softest of his opponents, as going into Week 13 they’d allowed 132.5 yards per game on the ground and 4.7 yards per carry. Neither the Cowboys nor the Jaguars are exactly stout against the run either, as their yards per game against on the ground going into Sunday’s games were 114.0 and 109.5 at 4.3 yards per carry for both squads. Thrill-seeking individuals who like to play high stakes games of chance may wish to turn to James Davis instead of James Starks as a deep league high risk/high reward flex option going into the money weeks of the season.
Josh Shepardson is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of B-Chad.
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!