Faceoff: C.J. Spiller

August 9th

Will Grant: C.J. Spiller was the most explosive RB in this year's draft. The Bills had several areas that they could have improved, but could not pass up a playmaker like Spiller with the #9 overall pick. He is a great runner who can also line up on the outside. He has soft hands and good vision, and is one of those players that can go the distance every time he touches the ball.

Buffalo may not have been the best spot for Spiller to land from a fantasy prospective, but he still has a lot of upside. New Head Coach Chan Gailey is looking to make an impact in Buffalo, and Spiller is his first major draft pick for the Bills. Gailey will make every effort to get Spiller the ball, and you can expect him to line up in many different formations throughout the season.

Spiller sill start the season as the #2 back behind Fred Jackson. He will also share the backfield with former top 15 fantasy back Marshawn Lynch. However, Spiller has more talent than both of them, and by next year, he should be the feature back. As for this season, Jackson is far from entrenched as the starter as well. He proved that he can be effective last season, but he had almost 20% of his production in the final game of the season against an Indianapolis team that was resting their starters for a playoff run. In that game, Jackson had 212 yards on the ground, after racking up just 850 the previous 15 games.

Another issue with Jackson is his limited ability to get the ball into the end zone. He had a receiving TD in the first game of the season and one in the final game against Indy. His only other visit to the end zone was when he scored twice against Miami in week 12. Spiller should hit the end zone at least four times this season and his ability to take it all the way should result in a few long yardage TDS as well.

Spiller's biggest contribution though will be in PPR leagues. The Buffalo passing attack is not going to scare anyone, and much of their focus will be on short, quick passes and check-downs out of the backfield. Spiller fills that need perfectly, and his ability to make people miss will make him an excellent weapon split out in the slot. With no receiving options outside of Lee Evans, Spiller should have close to 50 receptions by season end.

Spiller has signed his rookie contract, and he's in camp, practicing with the team. He's going to get the maximum number of reps possible, and that will be a huge contribution to his growth and potential impact this season. While he won't light the fantasy world on fire this season, his upside is very good. He's currently going at #70 overall, late in the 5th round, RB29. As a 3rd RB/Flex option for your fantasy team, he will post consistent numbers each week and could really give your team a boost with his ability to score from anyplace on the field. Don't be afraid to give him a shot.

Chris Smith: I really like what rookie C.J. Spiller brings to the football field. His mix of explosiveness, quickness and talent is undeniable, and he will certainly make the Buffalo Bills a better team in 2010 and beyond. However that doesn't always translate into monster fantasy statistics and there are multiple reasons to not project his numbers too high for his rookie season.

Reasons for caution in 2010

  1. Lack of ideal size for 20+ touches per game: Spiller has change-of-pace running back written all over him. A true threat to score from anywhere on the field, the Bills are likely to use him in multiple fashions such as '3rd down specialist', 'slot receiver', 'change of pace rusher' etc. instead of a true workhorse. He is less than 200 pounds and in the NFL, very few players can absorb the punishment at that weight. He is the type of player that has multiple touches with no production and then rips off a big run so he isn't the ideal every-down running back that teams covet.
  2. Lots of talent in the Bills backfield: Spiller is a talented back but the Bills also have Marshawn Lynch and the under-appreciated Fred Jackson in the backfield and both may see plenty of playing time. Jackson is currently listed as the starting running back and following his 1433 total-yardage season from last year, he will likely see the bulk of the work. He earned that right with his strong play behind a suspect line last year. Speaking of suspect line...
  3. Poor offensive line play: There is some cause for optimism here but that is unlikely to come about this season. As a result, a scat back like Spiller may struggle to get going as he needs a crease to get going. A player like Fred Jackson and his 215-pound frame can push the pile and make yardage out of nothing
  4. Still unsigned: Spiller may sign any day now but as of the writing of this face off, he has yet to sign his first contract. Every day he misses from this point on will have a negative impact.

Last Word

I definitely like what Spiller brings to the Bills backfield. He'll add a few long touchdowns, catch passes and give defenses fits when he's on the field. However his size and inexperience will mean limited touches and Fred Jackson will receive the lion's share of the work in 2010. Project Spiller accordingly.