Fantasy Faceoff: Jahvid Best vs. James Starks

Posted: July 18, 2012 in Fantasy, Fantasy Football Draft, NFL
Tags: , , , , ,


In our latest edition of Fantasy Faceoff, Fantasy FB Pundit and I battle it out over Jahvid Best and James Starks. Following my resounding victory in the first Fantasy Faceoff we did, I thought I’d be a good host and give Pundit a fighting chance this time, so I let him take Best, while I argue for Starks. You know, something tells me since I’m the one who writes these introductions and has editing powers to the blog, by my crazy gorilla math I may end up undefeated in Faceoffs at the end of the summer. Just a hunch. So here is the battle of running backs being drafted on average in Round 6. Who do you prefer? Best or Starks?

The Case for Jahvid Best

I’ll acknowledge from the outset the very real risk in drafting Jahvid Best this season: he is literally one hit away from having his career ended due to his concussion history. If you draft Best, you are doing it knowing full well that he will likely be a boom or bust selection.  I realize that.  And I’m fine with it, because the name of the game in fantasy football is taking risk on high-upside guys, which describes Best perfectly.

Because he played in only six games last season, some gamers may have forgotten just how productive Best was in 2011 from a fantasy standpoint.  Here are his point totals, by week: 11.4, 24.3, 8.8, 7.0, 23.2 and 11.0.  That works out to a nifty 14.28 points per game. Do you know how good that is?  Marshawn Lynch, who ranked 4th overall in RB scoring, averaged 14.37 points per game last year.

Look at Best’s point totals again: the worst game he gave you last year was seven points.  That was his floor.  You plug Best in as your flex — and make no mistake, that’s where his ADP dictates what he will be drafted as — and you are pretty much set that’s he’s going to give you enough points (at the very least) to be starter-worthy.  And it’s not because he’s a great running back.  It’s because he’s a great receiver.

Forget PPR leagues for a second; Best is a receiving asset in standard leagues too. Check out these game logs.  In four of six games last season, he surpassed 40 yards receiving; in half his games, he surpassed 60 yards.  It’s no secret that the Detroit Lions don’t have much of a running game.  Instead, they use Best (and Brandon Pettigrew) on short routes and dump-off throws to achieve their short to intermediate gains (watch the visual evidence at the 0:08 mark of this video).

Best averaged more targets per game (6.7) in 2011 than DeSean Jackson (6.3).  A stat I like to use when evaluating the usage of running backs is by simply combining their rushing attempts with their targets.  Here are those totals from some of the workhorse backs from last season, just to give an idea: Arian Foster (26.6), LeSean McCoy (22.3), Lynch (21.4), Chris Johnson (21.1), Ryan Mathews (20.0), Adrian Peterson (19.1).  How many carries plus targets did Best average in his six games last season?  20.7.  Make no mistake: when healthy, the Lions love to have Best heavily involved in the offense, notably in the passing game.  He will get his looks.

Not breaking any news here, but it should at least be noted how dominant Detroit’s offense really is.  They ranked 4th in the league in points, 5th in yards, 4th in plays from scrimmage, and they tied for 6th in 1st downs per game.  Led by Matthew Stafford, one of the top five QBs in the game, and of course Calvin Johnson, the best WR by leaps and bounds, this offense is a machine.  They move the ball, they get yards, and they put up a ton of points — a perfect recipe for an explosive back like Best to rack up the fantasy points.

Go back to the highlight video for a second, at the 0:24 mark.  That’s Detroit with the ball in a 1st-and-goal situation against the Chiefs in Week 2 last year.  Notice Johnson at the bottom of your screen, with two defenders on him … at the 1-yard line?  The Lions smartly give the ball to Best and he leaps into the end zone for the easy score.  Suffice it to say, Best won’t be facing any “eight-man” fronts this season as long as Stafford and Megatron are in the lineup.

Moving on to our opponent in this little faceoff,  I frankly don’t have much to say about James Starks.  He will be your classic “valuable only if he scores a TD this week” kind of guy.  He’s in an offense just as explosive as Detroit’s, but he’s half the talent Best is.  He may get you 70-80 total yards in a week — certainly nothing to sneeze at — but he lacks the big play ability of Best and will never win you your week on his own (see, for comparison: Best’s 24 and 23 points games last season).  Sure, Best is the bigger injury risk, but these guys are going off the board in the 6th round, and by that point in drafts, my strategy is to make a play for the high-upside guys.  Starks isn’t that guy.

Oh, and if you have been reading the glowing preseason press clippings about Starks, I wouldn’t pay it any mind — we’ve been down that road with him before.

-Fantasy FB Pundit

Follow Pundit on Twitter @FantasyFbPundit

The Case for James Starks

Out of all the sides I’m defending in these faceoffs, Starks is going to be the toughest for me to make a case for because I’m basing it purely on a hunch and it’s hard to argue a hunch. Also, I have these two players ranked virtually in the exact same spot, so it’s not like I have a strong feeling that you should select Starks over Best if given the opportunity. However, a couple of misguided souls would say I’m a professional and as a professional I’ll do my best to defend my position.

Now I get that the Packers don’t run the ball a lot and they never will but to get the starting running back on one of the NFL’s highest scoring offenses in Round 6 or 7 is pretty good value. I actually like Alex Green as well but he’s more for down the line. Right now the job belongs to Starks. He’s clearly the starter in Green Bay and will get every opportunity to produce early on in the year.

Backs in passing offenses like Green Bay, New England, New Orleans and Detroit only need to be average to be productive. History has proven that much. Just ask BenJarvus Green-Ellis and his new contract. So while I don’t view Starks as an elite player I do think he’s talented enough to produce solid numbers in the Packers offense if he stays healthy. Basically I see Starks being Joseph Addai. Addai was never a superstar in Indianapolis but because of the offense he played in he helped out fantasy owners, especially as a receiver out of the backfield.

I look at the numbers Ryan Grant grant put up in Green Bay. I don’t think Starks is the inside runner Grant was in his prime but Grant provided little as a receiver. I think when you look at what Starks can do in the passing game, I believe his numbers can be similar to those of Grant (1,300 total yards) and that’s not shabby fantasy production for a guy you can pick up in the middle rounds of your draft. I envision 900-1,000 yards rushing and 40-50 receptions from Starks this season.

Now I won’t slam Best. I started The Fire Sale 13 years ago and despite being a college football nut, very few college players have ever made it in that column. I wanted it to be an honor if I was going to mention a college player and Best is one of only four to make it, so I was on his bandwagon a long time ago. The guy has amazing physical skills and I’ve drafted him in each of his first two seasons, so I’m a Best guy.

However, I have two concerns when it comes to Best this season: concussions and Mikel Leshoure. In my opinion, a concussion is the single worst injury a player can have right now when we’re talking in terms of fantasy football. Concussions are such a huge issue at the moment that if a player has had the problem in the past - and Best has had concussions dating back to college - doctors are guaranteed to be cautious when it comes to allowing that player back on the field.

You see, I would rather have drafted Jamaal Charles than Beanie Wells. What I mean by that is I would rather have a guy tear his ACL in Week 2 than be a game-time decision every week. I think those game-time decisions kill fantasy owners. At least if I know my guy is done, I can move on and do what I need to do with my fantasy team.

Now Best may never get another concussion but the fact is as long as Roger Goodell is breathing, doctors aren’t going to allow guys with a history of concussions back on the field until they’re certain beyond a shadow of a doubt the player is ready to go. I think as fantasy owners we have to look at players like Best and Austin Collie and realize they come with the risk of missing a month even if they don’t take a serious hit. It’s just the state of the game today.

Next, I look at the Lions offense and I see it missing one thing and that’s running inside with any consistency at all. That’s where Leshoure comes in. It’s funny how things work. This guy was the flavor of the month at this time last year. Then he gets injured and does a couple of dumb things off the field and people kind of forgot about him.

The bottom line is Leshoure is loaded with talent. I don’t mean he has some talent. I mean Leshoure has loads of talent and if he ever gets his head on straight, the big back could be the missing piece that takes the Lions offense from very good to unstoppable. I’m not saying Best isn’t going to get a lot of touches but Leshoure will see his share too, as reported by the Lions official web site on Tuesday. actually predicts Leshoure will lead the team in carries this season. Come on, how can you not trust a guy named Tim Twentyman?

So in closing, this is a real tough choice but I give a slight edge to Starks based on my concern over Best’s concussion history and the presence of Leshoure, who I think will have a big role in the Lions offense this season. It’s close. I currently have Starks at No. 21 in my most recent running back rankings and Best at 23 but if they were both on the board in Round 6 and I was looking for a running back I would give a slight nod to Starks. Best is the better player but I believe Starks has the better opportunity to pay off for fantasy owners in 2012.

-The Pigskin Guy

Follow PSG on Twitter @ThePigskinGuy

  1. Jeff Collins says:

    Prior to reading this I would have taken Starks over Best for the potential RBBC and injury concerns stated. However Fantasy FB Pundit changed my mind with his facts and arguement of selecting the player with greater upside at that point in the draft.

    Look forward to the future faceoffs, they contain great information. Job well done by both of you.

    • Best has way more upside than Starks, there’s no doubt about that. He’s a much more talented player overall. The problem is Mikel Leshoure is a much more talented player than Alex Green too. I’m starting to think that out of all the backs in Green Bay and Detroit, Leshoure may be the best one to own this season. Green Bay has no one as talented as him and that includes Starks. Just something to think about considering you can get Leshoure two rounds later than Best. Plus, Pundit used stats from last year. Best isn’t scoring 24 fantasy points a week with 21 touches a week with Leshoure around. Book it. That’s the thing about stats. They tend to change from year to year when situations change.

      • Irish says:

        “Mikel Leshoure is a much more talented player than Alex Green”. I think Alex would disagree with you. Alex made it out on the field last season. We will see how Leshoure’s Achilles has healed up.

      • He carried the ball 3 times for 11 yards. He had three more carries than a guy who blew out his Achilles in training camp.

  2. Fantasy Fanatic says:

    I am a Lions fan and people are underestimating how much Leshoure is going to carry the ball. The Lions drafted him high for a reason. It is true Best is a great receiver and has a role but it is also true that the coaching staff believes he dances too much. The Lions top priority is to run the ball more this year and they have huge plans for Leshoure. They had big plans for him last year but he got hurt. I think Lions fans are too hard on Best but at the same time I do not see him getting the same kind of touches like the article said he got in the past. Fantasy owners like to read between the lines and in Detroit if you read between the lines they think Leshoure may be a stud. I do not see him being on the bench so Best can continue to run into the line for 2 yards. In 22 career games Best has only averaged 4 ypc only 6 times. He has averaged under 3 ypc 9 times. As a running back he has not been very good. He makes his money as a receiver but if Leshoure is healthy his overall touches will go down this season. Good post.

    • That’s what I mean about the situation changing. Last year Leshoure got hurt in training camp. This year he’s healthy. The situation has changed, so I’m guessing the numbers won’t stay the same either. Let’s look at Minnesota for example. Peterson is coming back from knee surgery and will likely be brought along slowly during the first month of the season. Plus, Toby Gerhart playing more on passing downs. The situation from 2011 to 2012 is completely different, so any stats you feed me from last year are irrelevant in my opinion. Best is still a good fantasy player when healthy but the bottom line is there’s now another talented option in the mix who goes 230. You can’t say the same thing about Green Bay right now.

  3. anarchyraliv says:

    Even if I KNEW Best was getting a season ending injury on the 7th week, I would still draft him because he has the RB1 upside to help me win the first 6 games and hopefully be in a position to cruise into the playoffs.

  4. ericanadian says:

    I’m not really seeing how Leshoure impacts Best all that much this year. Best pretty much has passing downs until Leshoure can learn to effectively pass block. Best only averaged about 14 carries a game, so unless Leshoure takes over as an every down back, Best should still be good for 8-10 carries plus his standard targets while Leshoure gets 12-15. Given that his value to date has been as a homerun threat, I don’t see that as a big deal.

    Further, Best had turf toe issues his entire opening season, so yes, his YPC wasn’t anything special. Run DMC had similar issues to start his career and managed a measly 7 games above 4.0 in his first two seasons (while playing quite a few more games) and 8 games with less than 3.0 over that period (I excluded the two games with one carry). I don’t think many people are complaining about that aspect of his game now.

  5. I think Leshoure is being given way too much credit way too early. Consider: a) he *tore his Achilles* last offseason — a significant injury by anyone’s estimation; b) he’s never played a down in the NFL so we have no idea how good he can be; c) he’s suspended for the first two games of the season, giving Best time to take the job and (again) run with it.

    Yeah, Leshoure could end up being a stud, who knows. But this is essentially a rookie with zero NFL experience coming off a season-ending leg injury. Not exactly the perfect recipe for running back success.

    • What does tearing his Achilles have to do with anything in 2012? According to Terrell Suggs that’s now an 8 month injury. When more people realize what HGH really does, what athletes really take it for and how many athletes really do take it, this will be a better world. Or maybe you believe it’s normal for Wes Welker to be running up a hill three months after tearing an ACL and MCL. Players don’t take HGH to get huge. They take it to speed up recovery time. An Achilles injury used to be 12-14 months. Now a guy tears one in March and he’s telling us he’ll be back by November. You do the math. Listen, Leshoure may be garbage but that injury won’t have anything to do with it. Not one damn thing.

    • By the way, I’m not against players using HGH to get back on the field quicker. I would do the same thing. I’m just saying when things like tearing knee ligaments and Achilles don’t even sideline you for 10 months anymore, it’s pretty obvious what’s going on. Hell, I won’t be surprised if Mo Rivera returns for the playoffs at this point. That’s why I say concussions are the worst problem to have. It’s the only injury where you can’t take a drug to quicken the healing process…yet.

      • irish says:

        I think Green had about 16 preseason carries plus the 3 regular season carries and was on the field for additional snaps, maybe returned some kicks, scored a TD too. I forget, how many pro snaps does Leshoure have??? :)

      • The preseason? Ryan Leaf was once the leading passer in the preseason and people were calling for him to have a breakout year. That’s how important the preseason is. Green did nothing last year. I like him but he did absolutely nothing as a rookie. No one saw enough of Green last year to like him. If you like him you like what you saw out of him at Hawaii, not the 16 carries he got against future substitute teachers in the preseason. Actually, if Green was in Detroit he would probably be used exactly like Best. I think that’s called irony. lol

  6. brent says:

    you guys are forgetting that the lions resigned kevin smith who is now healthy and just as,if not more explosive then best,smith avg 4.25 yds per carry in 8 games last yr and he played with a bum ankle for the last 3.5 games of the season prior to the injury he was avg 6.1 yds per carry rec wise he avg nearly 4 rec per game and 35 yds during those 4 games prior to his injury,kevin smith is a complete back he can run inside the tackles and also take it outside to the edge as well…kevin smith scored 7 tds in 8 games with the lions last yr

    • Good point Brent. I’ll be honest, I do keep forgetting about Smith. Maybe that’s a mistake on my part because he was very productive when he played last year. I agree, he looked better running inside than any other back on that team by a country mile. He’ll be in line for touches as well. Another strike against Best. Pundit is on the ropes. Someone deliver the Mike Tyson knockout blow. lol

      • Irish says:

        I’ve got Smith stashed on my Dynasty roster and it feels good. I must disagree with you Brent on one point though. Smith is not nearly as explosive as Best and has a diferent style of running, more of a slasher than a little jitterbug like Best. Best reminds me a little of a poor man’s Barry Sanders. If only he was not injury prone he could be an elite back.

  7. Mike says:

    Yahoo standard leagues has best and starks going at an adp of 107 and 117 respectively. Great value for both, no?

  8. Irish says:

    Tough matchup. Neither has proven he can stay healthy. Have to go with Best for his upside.

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