Already well into the new fantasy season, rookie drafts are well under way and coaches everywhere are bristling with excitement as visions of a 2010 championship on the backs of their new rookie additions.
But in scanning recent rookie drafts, outside of the consensus top two picks of Ryan Mathews and Dez Bryant, a decision looms if you’re sitting in the three hole. Do you make the seemingly easy choice of selecting the first RB off the board in C.J. Spiller or do you go against the grain and take the dynamic Jahvid Best. While there are many similarities between these two backs, there are also some notable differences that must be weighed before making your choices.
Let’s take a look at these undersized, yet versatile, backs.
Spiller – 5’10 5/8″, 196
Best – 5’10 1/8″, 199
We’re going to call this one even. While Spiller is a 1/2″ taller, Best carries a slightly thicker frame. The eyeball test during the combine favored Best as well as I was left very impressed, noting that I thought he was going to come in closer to 205. Given that Spiller is no slouch in this area as well, I’m comfortable calling this measurable a dead heat.
On the topic of size, note that my ideal RB size 5’10 1/2″ – 5’11 1/2″ and 212-221 lbs. A bit picky? …yes, but I have come to settle on this range after many years of research and statistical study for just this purpose of draft day comparison. RBs below this size have a significantly more difficult time having the desired impact in the NFL, especially as it relates to fantasy. This is not to say that they cannot be successful or that there aren’t exceptions to every rule, but both Spiller and Best fail the first test of size.
Spiller – 4.37
Best – 4.35
Our comparison doesn’t get much clearer as both are pure burners in the 40. When watching tape, they both play as fast as advertised.
When breaking it down a bit further, Spiller seems to have the better start/stop ability while Best uses his speed along with a better-than-expected physicality in his runs. Change of direction and acceleration can be important, especially in smaller backs but I prefer to see a stronger inside game matched with dynamic speed. While both have dynamic speed, Best is clearly the stronger runner which translates better to the NFL. This is not to say that Spiller isn’t a tough back, but he does not run with the same physicality as does Best. Neither are accomplished inside runners, but Best displays more ability.
Slight Advantage: Best
Spiller – Buffalo (Pick #9)
Best – Detroit (Pick #30)
Buffalo and Detroit. Yeesh. Neither are great landing spots for any RB. Both teams are solidly under-performing, have questionable offensive lines, QB play and relatively new coaching staffs.
In Buffalo’s case, a serious lack of WR talent and a significant question mark in QB play casts a heavy shadow over the expected offensive performance in 2010. Toss in the fact that capable and newly anointed starter, Fred Jackson is already sharing time with Marshawn Lynch and Spiller finds himself surrounded by significant talent in the backfield. However, Lynch is blazing a trail out of Buffalo on a series of off-the-field infractions and the 29 year old Fred Jackson lacks the dynamic ability that Spiller brings. Spiller is sure to see significant time in the return game initially and probably 8-12 touches in other phases as well. Lynch should be out of town by the pre-season and no later than next training camp. The recent events in Seattle would seemingly be the perfect set of circumstances for Lynch if Buffalo doesn’t, again, overplay their hand.
In Detroit, with a second year coach, 2nd year QB and Calvin Johnson, many are starting come out from underneath their game-day paper bags with high hopes for 2010. Incumbent RB Kevin Smith is coming back from a knee injury and is certain to give way to Jahvid Best, at least at the beginning of the season. The two backs have very disparate running styles and abilities and would seemingly be good complements for one another. Regardless, Best is your starter in DET and he’ll have every opportunity to win the job for the long haul. That said, DET’s questionable offensive line may not be much better than last year which may not bode well for Matt Stafford or their running game. Best does offer something that the Lions have not had in a long time … a dynamic speed back with great hands.
The great equalizer. Spiller is without a doubt the more durable of the two without having played a single down in the NFL. Generally, due to size, smaller backs do tend to wear down under the heavy load of the NFL. Neither of these backs have the body or the body of work to suggest that they could carry a full load without adding weight. But the horrific concussion that took much of Best’s final season at Cal is a serious concern. Due to his size and running style, further concussions are a possibility. Due to the severity of his last concussion, it is uncertain as to what another one would do to his physical health or even his running style. It is not out of the question that another serious concussion could end his career. Unlikely? Perhaps, but not out of the question.
No concerns for either back. Both have a good motor and the work ethic to succeed at the next level.
Spiller – 216/1,212/12
Best – 141/867/12
Both backs played in legitimate conferences and performed well. Not surprisingly, both backs also had largely similar numbers when extrapolating Best’s lost games due to injury, in both rushing and receiving roles. Spiller does avg. half again more yards with each reception, but not enough to swing the balance. Best marginally bests (no pun intended) Spiller on ypc.
Without getting into too much detail in calling this push, we’ll just do so.
Both Spiller and Best measure up equally in many ways as noted by the above scorecard. In many more ways, they have similar games, style and project to the NFL much in the same way. While not prototypical in size, both possess that speed dynamic that simply dictates that you cannot simply ignore either of them based on size alone.
When comparing backs that measure up so similarly, it helps to break them down to the single biggest pro AND con that each back possesses. Doing so gives us the following:
Pro – Speed Dynamic
Con – Situation
Pro – Speed Dynamic
Con – Injury History
We can see that the speed dynamic of both backs cancel each other out, leaving us to compare Spiller’s negative “situation” vs. that of Best’s “injury history”.
In my book, both are of equal talent level and that strikes a strong chord as I can now toss out drafted slot (#9 vs. #30). While Fred Jackson is 29 years old and Lynch is sure to be out of Buffalo soon, Spiller’s drafted situation is a much worse known quantity than the potentiality of a similar injury to Best. Detroit’s offense is more established, has legitimate weapons and plays in a dome while Buffalo is struggling mightily with their offensive line , QB play and unproven WRs. Additionally, the late season weather in Buffalo is well regarded in fantasy as one to avoid if at all possible.
Come draft day, if I’m sitting with the third pick, I’ll be taking Jahvid Best without much further consideration … and that paper bag can once again be used for my lunch instead of a game day statement.
You can find Jeff on Twitter at @dlf_jeff