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Packers' RB James Starks Wins Rookie Award

Packers' Running Back Starks Wins Weekly Rookie Award

Photo - James Starks - Packers

QB Aaron Rodgers threw three TD passes and unheralded rookie running back James Starks ran for 123 yards as the Packers beat Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles, 21-16 in an NFC Wild Card game. Starks was a rookie 6th-round draft pick who injured his hamstring prior to training camp and proceeded to miss the first 11 games of the season while on the PUP list. He pounded the Eagles for 123 rushing yards on 23 carries to give the Packers their first 100 yard rusher on the season and instrumental in their 21-16 Wild Card playoff win.

QB Aaron Rodgers called Starks’ playoff effort perhaps the most important factor in the Packers winning the game. His yardage shattered the previous Green Bay rookie record for rushing yards in a playoff game. Travis Williams had 88 yards back on Dec. 23, 1967, against the Los Angeles Rams in Milwaukee.

Starks got off to a great start against the Eagles when he burst through a big hole for a 27-yard gain on his first carry. He carried three more times for 9 yards on that early drive that ended with a 7-yard TD pass to TE Tom Crabtree.

“He established a hot hand early, and I rode it,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “James was a difference-maker.”

Starks also added two receptions for 9 yards along with his 123 yards rushing. This came in his first playoff game and late season play following nearly two years off with a shoulder injury. Starks averaged 5.3 yards per carry and gained at least 4 yards on 12 of his 23 rushes. The production was pretty consistent, and it gave the Packers several manageable third downs as the offense converted 8-of-13 on the critical down.

Running Back Rankings in Draft Insiders’ - Yearbook March 2010
Starks was ranked #12 in March 2010. He was not ranked in the top 25 in any other scouting service. His March 2010 scouting report is below along with LaGarrette Blount and Anthony Dixon, two other unheralded first year backs who had an impact over the 2010 season.

Running Back Rankings
1. C.J. Spiller - Clemson
2. * Ryan Mathews - Fresno St
3. * Jonathan Dwyer - Georgia Tech
4. * Jahvid Best - California
5. * Toby Gerhart - Stanford
6. * Joe McKnight - Southern Cal
7. Ben Tate - Auburn
8. Dexter McCluster - Ole Miss
9. Montario Hardesty - Tennessee
10. Anthony Dixon - Mississippi St
11. LaGarrette Blount - Oregon
12. James Starks - Buffalo

12. James Starks #19 - 6’2” 220 lbs. - Buffalo - Sp. 4.50
Hindu Theory - Matt Forte

Tough strong senior tailback completed an injury riddled career playing only a few ’09 games before a shoulder injury that ended his season. James failed to duplicate his outstanding junior effort last season. As a junior, he made a significant contribution to the Bulls bowl season. He displayed definite pro potential after finishing with over 1300 yards rushing and 16 TDs despite missing three games due to injuries. He displays a powerful slashing style with the ability to run through tacklers and get the most of each attempt. Over his earlier career, he had several big games that improved his draft status entering his critical final season. He is a strong runner between the tackles with the power to move the pile and break tackles. He has a quick burst to the hole and uses his a big frame well that allows him to run through tacklers and consistently finish his runs with fine body lean. He is a tough runner with good vision, power and balance to be one of the hidden gems of this class if healthy. He has burst to the hole, allowing him to get through the line and use his strong frame to run through tacklers with enough speed to get the corner. His game is getting the tough yardage between the tackles. As a receiver, he has sure hands and has developed well as a route runner and displays good defense recognition skills. He is a natural runner with fine power and quickness, getting huge amounts of yardage after contact. He is a back with a low center of gravity who is very effective when he runs with good pad level and not allowing defenders a clean shot at him. He finishes each rushing attempt with excellent body lean. He has fine lower body strength, including thick thighs, allowing him to run through defenders consistently. He has some natural running skills making defenders miss initially, though he is mainly a one cut runner who runs in a north-south style. His running skills include – decision-making, vision, balance and power with good speed to break into the secondary. As a senior, he started every game before an early season shoulder injury. As a junior, he rushed for 1333 yards and 16 TDs despite missing 3 games with injuries. At the NFL Combine, he ran fine 4.50 and 4.57 times with 15 reps. He added 36” VL and 9’11” BJ with 6.89 three cone and 4.23 short shuttle times. He completed an excellent workout in the positional drills. His quickness and power is what will win an NFL roster spot, showing the AA to make the tough critical inside yardage and possibly start in time. He can be a solid change of pace runner with the ability to contribute in a few roles including a key goal line runner, in addition to projecting to FB in a West Coast offense. Over his career, he displayed the toughness to be a weekly power back with consistent production and ball security his strongest traits. He will probably fall to the late rounds off his injury history. Good late round steal, though he must answer the durability issues to realize his NFL starting potential.

Frank Coyle writes College Football Mondays weekly during the season and a regular Blog @ draftinsiders.com. He is a longtime scouting consultant for the Senior Bowl, the nation’s premier postseason All-star game. He is also a member of the FWAA and voter in College team and player awards - Heisman, Outland, Nagurski, Thorpe, etc. He is a voter for weekly Team and Player Awards

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