Thursday, November 11, 2010
Is James Starks as Good as Ted Thompson Thinks He Is?
Despite being a rookie who hasn't played a down in the NFL, Starks was added to the Packers’ 53-man roster today. Far be it for me to question Thompson’s personnel decisions. He has shown an ability to pluck guys out of obscurity who have turned out to be studs (Ryan Grant being a prime example). But, just for the record, I think it is noteworthy to mention just how much of a leap of faith Thompson is taking on Starks.
First, the fact Starks was selected in the first place was a bit of a reach. He was a sixth round pick (193rd overall) last year out of the University at Buffalo. Mind you, that’s the University at Buffalo, not of Buffalo. When naming the institution, the school founders realized that as part of the “State University of New York” system that they needed to come up with a different preposition for the Buffalo part. State University of New York of Buffalo sounded… well, dumb (like a lot of names out of Buffalo). So it’s officially the State University of New York at Buffalo. Starks was the school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,140 yards in three seasons, however racking those stats up against such perennial powerhouses as Ball State and Rhode Island makes it a little less impressive. Dampening the impressiveness even further is the fact Starks didn’t play his entire senior year due to a shoulder injury. I guess grainy game tape from 2008 was enough for Ted. After all, who wouldn’t take a flyer on a guy coming out of a SUNY school?
Second, Starks has been injured his entire NFL career so far with a hammy. I’m not sure what Starks was doing in 2009 while his shoulder was recovering that would have made him prone to a hamstring injury – maybe too many abrupt reclines in the Barcalounger. Anyway, before he saw his first NFL snap, he was put on the PUP list back in August and has been in his recliner ever since. The draft class of 2010 has been particularly injury prone with Mike Neal (2nd) and Morgan Burnett (3rd) already both done for the season and Andrew Quarless (5th) nursing a shoulder. Might want to have the team doctors take a little closer look on draft day.
Third, Thompson elected not to go out and sign another running back. Despite Starks’s injury and a variety of viable backs available via trade or waivers, the decision was made to hang tight and wait for Starks to watch a few more episodes of "I Love Lucy" and get healthy. That was quite a roll of the dice, since an injury to Brandon Jackson could have proven catastrophic. John Kuhn can only get you 2 yards and a cloud of dust so many times. Between his 2008 game film and trips to the physical therapist, Starks must have really been impressing the coaches.
Finally, Thompson elected to create a roster spot for Starks, but not for veteran Pro Bowler Al Harris or linebacker Robert Francois. These were some tough cuts this week. Well… Harris was a tough cut, at least. Robert Francois sounds too much like a Canadian Prime Minister to make it in this league.
Bottom line, it’s a big bet on a back out of Buffalo that Thompson is making. As I’ve bewailed numerous times, I would have put my chips on a different back out of Buffalo, but that’s why I’m writing a blog and Thompson is general manager of an NFL team. At least he’s consistent in his decision-making – favoring theoretically promising young talent over veterans every time. Word is Starks is at least out of the hot tub and practicing with the team. So that’s a good sign, I guess. Time will tell.