Every year fantasy owners leave their draft having little doubt in their mind as to who drafted the best team. Them, of course. Yes, all 12 teams in the league somehow drafted the best team. In 2013, many of those owners drafted a player like C.J. Spiller (i.e. Doug Martin, Ray Rice, Trent Richardson) with their first round selection. Spiller was a player with plenty of talent and upside and seemed to be deserving of that top pick. Little did they know, their fantasy football seasons were likely over before they ever started. But, like they say, hindsight is 20/20, so let us not look at the past, instead to the future and see what this once prolific Buffalo Bill has in store for 2014.
In C.J. Spiller’s breakout year, 2012, he amassed over 1,240 rushing yards on a mere 207 rushes equating to 6.0 yards per carry. He added 43 catches for 459 yards; 10.7 yards per reception. At the time, it seemed the only thing Spiller nay-sayers had going for them was his lack of goal-line opportunities. However, Spiller possessed such great vision, agility and breakaway speed that scoring from distance was no trouble.
The trouble for Spiller came in week 4 of last year’s season when he suffered a high ankle sprain. An injury that usually sidelines player for a lengthy time only cost him one game, but this injury seemed to linger throughout the year. His YPC dropped to 4.3, which isn’t necessarily terrible but compared to his 2012’s ypc it was disappointing to say the least. His explosiveness that made him such a unique player had gone missing. There had been rumors of it being a passenger on the missing Malaysian plane. Luckily for Spiller, the airlines checked the company database and it turned out he had over slept and missed the flight.
Along with (what seems as) every player in the NFL, Spiller was one of the team’s top performers at OTAs, according to the Bills official website. Nonetheless, there are still a few things that concern me about Spiller going into the season.
- He has touched the ball over 250 times in a single season once in his life. That was as a senior at Clemson in 2009, possessing the ball 252 times. Over the past two years, not including Spiller with his 250 in 2012, there have only been 2 running backs that have finished ranked inside the top 16 while touching the ball less than 250 times: Giovani Bernard in 2013 and Ahmad Bradshaw in 2012, both finishing as the #16 ranked players at their position.
- With Fred Jackson still in town and Bryce Brown added to the roster via trade, it doesn’t seem likely C.J. Spiller tops 250 touches.
Fred Jackson is like the San Antonio Spurs of the NFL. Year after year, they get undeservedly written off for being too old, and THIS is the year they somehow magically crumple to nothing because their age changed. Jackson finished as the #11 RB last year ahead of backs like Ryan Matthews, Frank Gore and Alfred Morris. He is a legit threat to Spiller and will most likely see the bulk of Buffalo’s goal-line carries.
Having said all of that, Spiller possesses the skills necessary to be a big time fantasy player. He can run, catch and is lightning quick. In addition, the Bills led the NFL in rush attempts last year, so regardless of sharing carries, C.J. will get his piece of the pie. The reports from OTAs have been consistently positive and he seems to be fully healed from the ankle injury.
Currently, Spiller is the 17th running back being selected off the board according to Yahoo’s ADP. If Spiller enters the season at 100%, and is able to stay healthy all year, he could be a steal in this year’s draft. Nevertheless, Spiller is being selected as a mid-RB2 which seems appropriate given the uncertainties surrounding him. Owners should be looking to draft a legit RB1 before selecting Spiller in their draft this year. He will probably not be the workhorse that many expected him to be in 2013, so draft accordingly.
*Photo Credit – United States Marine Corps/Sgt. D.R. Cotton via wiki commons.