Several weeks back we pointed out that CJ Spiller should be considered a top handcuff because of Fred Jackson’s injury history, age, and heavy workload. After Fred Jackson’s season ending leg injury, we now have to assess how good Spiller can be as a starting fantasy running back.
Spiller can be Great
CJ Spiller has break away speed. At the 2010 combine, he ran a 4.37 and an “unofficial” 4.28. We have seen that in sprinkles over the least two seasons with a great kick return or an exciting touchdown run in the preseason. If he gets in the open field, Spiller will be tough to catch. As we’ve seen with some backs over the year, Jamaal Charles and Chris Johnson, all you need is one long distance score.
With Ryan Fitzpatrick and his receivers struggling, Spiller could be a solid check down option, which will possibly increase his overall touches. The Bills receivers are all banged up and have slowed down considerably with the league getting a little more tape on Stevie Johnson and David Nelson.
What may be the biggest thing going for CJ Spiller is the head coach, Chan Gailey. When he was a coach for the Chiefs, he found creative ways to get the ball to Jamaal Charles. The Spiller pick was the first under the Gailey administration and there was even talk that he would be splitting carries with Fred Jackson in the preseason. So the belief and support is there from the coaching staff. Perhaps we’ll see more packages featuring his strengths, like screens and draw plays.
Spiller will be another Flashy 3rd down back
Speed kills, but at the NFL level, everyone’s got it. If you didn’t have fast athletes on an NFL defense, every star college running back would succeed at this level. There lies the main problem for Spiller. His main physical attribute is his speed, but he brings little to the inside running game. This could limit Spiller for overall touchdowns, particularly at the goal line. Watch to see who gets the goal line snaps against the Jets this weekend. Fred Jackson is 6’1, 220 with 4 of his 6 rushing touchdowns coming from 5 yards and in; Spiller is 5’11 and 220. At Clemson, teammate James Davis was the running back delivering the body blows on short yardage situations. Will Johnny White or Tashard Choice play that complimentary role? Neither guy is that much bigger, but Choice has played on goal line packages for both the Cowboys and his brief stint with the Redskins.
Knowing which hole to hit, which block to follow, and when to cut back ultimately makes a running back great. This was probably the main reason why Fred Jackson was the Bills starting running back, and a successful one at that. From all accounts, this is what Spiller is struggling with. The con here is that maybe Spiller needs a rough game or two withALLthe carries, something he is yet to have at this level. Perhaps getting accustomed to the speed of the NFL is what Spiller needs.
After the Jets game, the Bills will play their next 3 out of 4 games at home, against the Titans, Chargers, Broncos, and Dolphins. Spiller’s skills translate to all purpose yards versus an efficient fantasy scoring game composed of 2 or 3 carries at the goal line. Thus, if he were to succeed, he needs to be a poor man’s Brian Westbrook, breaking off big runs in both the run and passing game, and accumulating a lot of receptions. Because of his size, he probably cannot succeed at the goal line. What he needs to get better at is reading blocks and mastering the timing of the plays. He’ll be a low end flex, until he can achieve that.