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Over/Under: CJ Spiller

Spiller

Welcome to another installment of “Over/Under” where I highlight a player, determine some projections based on past tendencies, then state whether I think they will go “over or under” those projections. The criteria will be different for each player based on position and situation.

This week’s debate will focus on CJ Spiller of the Buffalo Bills. We will put his betting line at 1,400 yards rushing, 500 yards receiving and 11.5 total touchdowns.

“(And) why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”  –Thomas Wayne, Batman Begins

I’m a huge Star Wars and Batman fanatic. I find myself often relating fantasy football situations, players, or fantasy team names to something from one of the movies. When I think about CJ Spiller, I can’t help but to think about the scene in Batman Begins where Bruce Wayne’s father is giving his young son some encouraging words after falling into a well and finding what would eventually become the Bat Cave.

Spiller was drafted with the ninth overall selection by the Bills in the 2010 NFL Draft. At the time, they had a couple of hard nosed runners on the team (Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson), but lacked explosiveness. Jackson was coming off a breakout campaign, rushing for 1,062 yards and two touchdowns while catching 46 passes for 371 yards and another two scores – that was good enough to finish as the RB13 for 2009. Lynch had fallen out of favor in Buffalo and finished the year as Jackson’s backup after starting only six games. Spiller’s arrival signaled the end for Lynch. He was traded to the Seattle Seahawks at the 2010 season’s trade deadline and it appeared the Bills were preparing to make Spiller the focal point of the offense. That would not be the case as the 2010 season was a frustrating one for Spiller owners.

Even though he was the first running back selected in the NFL draft, he was not the top rookie running back target for most on fantasy draft day – that honor would go to Ryan Mathews who the Chargers traded up for to replace future Hall of Famer LaDanian Tomlinson. Spiller’s ADP of 57.7 as the RB25 ended up the third highest ADP of the rookie running backs behind Mathews (14.8, RB8) and Jahvid Best (38.5, RB18) of the Detroit Lions. As you’ll see below, his rookie season was not a successful one. He would finish outside the top 50 running backs with just 68 points for the season.

chart1

Going into the 2011 season, Head Coach Chan Gailey was committed to Fred Jackson as the lead back and contemplated using Spiller as a wide receiver in spread formations since he excelled as a pass catcher. Jackson was having the best season of his career before going on injured reserve in week 12 with a broken leg. He would finish the year strong, including a 111 yard outing against the Broncos on Christmas Eve. Below you can see how both backs finished the 2011 season. We all assumed it was the official “changing of the guard” since the offense performed well with Spiller in the backfield, his draft pedigree, and Jackson’s age, but that wasn’t the case. The stubbornness of Chan Gailey to stick with Fred Jackson as the starter over the electric Spiller would be his eventual undoing.

chart2

Coach Gailey came out publicly and declared Fred Jackson as the starter for the Buffalo Bills in 2012 and “hoped they focused on team success, not personal workload.” That all changed in week one when Jackson sprained a knee ligament and Spiller went off for 169 yards on just 14 carries, including an incredible 56-yard touchdown scamper. He would have a month long audition to cement himself as the long term starter in Buffalo. He kept the hot streak alive in week two, rushing 15 times for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Week three saw three years of pent up aggression come to a screeching halt when Spiller’s shoulder was driven into the ground. He would leave the game with a sprained shoulder. Even though he wouldn’t miss any starts, it was justification for Gailey to keep the now healthy Jackson a large part of the game plan. The chart below shows the weekly usage of each runner by week.

chart3

The up and down usage of each runner continued throughout the 2012 season, rendering them both weekly gambles in the fantasy world. From week six to week 10, the running game hit its stride and both runners were usable. Even though they were splitting the carries they both racked up the catches, enough to start them both in PPR leagues. When Jackson went down for the season in week 14 with a sprained MCL, Spiller became the bell cow for the remaining three weeks. Against three of the league’s top run defenses, he eclipsed the 100 yard mark, failing to do so only against the Jets in week 17.

Now we find ourselves in a familiar territory. Spiller finished the previous season on a high note and we all expect him to be firmly entrenched as the team’s featured runner. Why will it be different this time? The Bills fired Chan Gailey as head coach and replaced him with Syracuse’s Doug Marrone. Marrone is already on record saying Spiller will be used in all situations and he plans on running a high tempo offense to create more possessions. Spiller will excel in an up tempo offense because if defenses get caught trying to catch their breath – he’ll be gone and nobody will catch him. Jackson is still on the team and will see some carries, but he is no longer a threat to Spiller’s workload. You will only see him as an occasional substitution when Spiller needs a breather.

This line is probably the loftiest I’ve set since doing this series. Expectations are at an all-time high for Spiller. If he were to finish 2013 with this line exactly, he would finish with 307 points in PPR leagues – that total would have been good enough to finish as the RB3 in 2012, behind only Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin. In Ryan McDowell’s most recent ADP data for July, he came in as the RB6 with an ADP of 7.67. Collectively, we at DLF have him ranked tied with Adrian Peterson as the RB7 in dynasty startups.

Even though this line is extremely high and will be difficult to attain, I’m taking the over. He nearly reached these totals being grossly misused last season and with the additional carries in this new up tempo attacking offense, I think we are going to see some really, really big games out of Spiller this year. With his increased usage in the red zone and his homerun ability to score from literally anywhere on the field, he shouldn’t have any issue scoring at least 12 total touchdowns on the ground and through the air.

What do you think? Can CJ Spiller surpass these lofty expectations now he’s the featured running back in Buffalo? Are you taking the over or under on CJ Spiller’s 1,400 yards rushing, 500 yards receiving and 11.5 total touchdowns?

Let me know in the comments below.

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Eric Olinger

Eric Olinger

Senior Writer at Dynasty League Football
A 12 year old trapped in a man's body, Eric has been playing IDP dynasty leagues for almost 20 years. He enjoys Star Wars, Batman, red meat and an ice cold Diet Coke, sometimes all at once. He hopes to one day own his own Batmobile but his wife is a relentless dream crusher so the odds are slim.

Eric is on Twitter @OlingerIDP.
Eric Olinger

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32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Preston

    July 24, 2013 at 5:32 am

    I will say just under on the rushing yards, just think with rookie QB and largely young WRs it will be harder to run, but I’ll take the over on the receiving and TDs.

    • Sean

      July 24, 2013 at 10:46 pm

      I think Spiller gets the OVER on yards, both running and receiving. Unfortunately, I think he gets the UNDER for the TD’s, mainly due to Buffalo’s new stable of WR’s.. not to mention EJ Manuel who will probably run in TD or five.

  2. kcDemonSlayer

    July 24, 2013 at 5:35 am

    Um yeah I’m taking the over on this one guys. Not only is CJ a legit RB1 but I feel that one could argue that he is the MOST valuable RB in dynasty. His size, speed, and skillset….combined with his situation just look like he is going to be productive at that level for a long time. You look at the top 5 RBs and you have Rice, Foster, Jamaal, Lynch, McCoy….these guys have been doing it for a while and their days are numbered. Spiller is the next in line and ahead of Martin/T-Rich IMO. Last year he would have been the #1 RB from start to finish had he not gotten that shoulder stinger. Even despite the injury he never missed a game, but you could tell his play was affected until he heated back up down the stretch. OVER!

  3. SJ

    July 24, 2013 at 6:22 am

    Im all in on Spiller.

    Over, Over, Over.

    Theres no reason to think he wont hit 1700 rushing and 600 receiving yards, with 17 tds. Thats my line – and Im still taking the over.

    Outside of maybe, maybeeee, AP and Martin there is no other player I want on my teams. I’m targeting him in all my redrafts as my RB1 too. There is no player more primed for a elite breakout season.

    • Eric Olinger

      July 24, 2013 at 6:57 am

      HOLY COW! That’s a pretty lofty goal. Assuming he would get 600 yards on 50 catches, he would finish the year with 382 fantasy points in PPR leagues. YIKES.

      • SJ

        July 24, 2013 at 7:25 am

        What can I say, I’m an optimist sometimes. Spiller, Spiller, Spiller!

  4. Ryan Krcil

    July 24, 2013 at 6:38 am

    Great article. Only thing I think that could hold Spiller back is his team. The Bills will need to be better than they were last year to give Spiller the needed carries to hit those marks (the rushing marks specifically). Even with that worry I still think I would def take the over on the yards, but would probably go under on TDs.

    • Eric Olinger

      July 24, 2013 at 6:58 am

      The optimistic side of this is Jamaal Charles had a similar line with an arguably worse team last season. I agree it won’t be easy, but it won’t be unprecedented either. Regardless it should be a lot of fun to watch.

  5. coach

    July 24, 2013 at 7:18 am

    under. way under.

  6. Ken Kelly

    July 24, 2013 at 7:49 am

    …and we have controversy. Strong opinions both ways on this one. I love it!

  7. Catalyst

    July 24, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Spiller is a ManChild!!! Beast Mode!!!! OVER….Way OVER!!!
    8 in the box won’t be enough to stop him.

  8. Eric Olinger

    July 24, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Who would have thought my line might have been too low?!?! A lot of high hopes and expectations surrounding Spiller. God help him if he pulls a Ryan Mathews on us.

  9. Smudzy

    July 24, 2013 at 11:40 am

    I took Spiller with the 11th pick in a start up ppr 2 weeks ago… I was very pleased and am excited for what he can do. That being said I don’t see him as the type of runner than can be a bell cow and eclipse 1400 rush yards so I take the under there. They will want to get him the ball in space on screens, swing passes, and maybe line him up out wide, so I will go over on receiving yards. His team will hold him back on TDs as well so I will go under there.

    1250 rush yds 600 rec yards 10 Tds, thats my prediction and I would be very happy with that production

    • Eric Olinger

      July 24, 2013 at 11:46 am

      That is only 150 yards receiving and two touchdowns less than what he did last year. I think more consistent usage from week to week will increase his end of season output. The touchdowns are always fluky. If he is brought down inside the 5-yard line I would expect to see FJax vulture quite a few scores from Spiller.

      Thanks for reading.

      • jbpar72

        July 24, 2013 at 1:25 pm

        Why does everyone keep saying Spiller can’t be a bell cow back because he’s to small? I consider Jamaal Charles a bell cow back with last years 285 carries for 1500+ yards and Charles and Spiller are the same size.
        I traded for both Spiller and Charles this offseason and I’m expecting both to be top 6 RB’s.

  10. cbryantc

    July 24, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I’m going with the over on all accounts. Obviously I’m bias, as he is my rb1. I do think he could be an injury risk, but regardless he is well worth a top four rb pick. But, if he goes down I still have Lamar, Ivory, Vereen, and Reggie Bush to fall back on.

  11. Fantasyfootballforesight.com

    July 24, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    On film, Spiller looks absolutely spectacular. He not only has the speed and cutting-abilities to attain this stat line, but he also has the instincts and field vision necessary. The big question, however, will be the Bills team itself. Will QB play hold Spiller back? Will the team be so far behind most games that the runs (and swing/screen passes) dwindle by the 4th quarter? These are the main things to worry about.

    It’s dangerous to bet on a rookie coach, but we do see Marrone turning things around in Buffalo – at least to an extent. And as such, Spiller reaching 2,000 all-purpose yards and double-digit TDs is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. You’re taking a bit of a risk drafting him as a Top-3 guy, but the risk may pay off; and certainly, if you can get him as a 7th or 8th RB, you’re in great shape.

  12. smcguiga

    July 24, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    I say under because he will miss a bunch of games, the talent is unquestionable but we are talking a small back here, don’t see him as a bell cow at all.

    • Kaleb

      July 24, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      Great insight here, especially considering he has only missed 2 games his entire pro career and they were 3 seasons ago…

      • Cain

        July 24, 2013 at 4:47 pm

        Some people only see what they want to see. Spiller never has nor ever wkll be a bellcow. He is a shifty scat back. Period. Under under under in all counts. Not everyone is sipping on the Spiller-Aid. It took Freddy Jackson getting old and hurt to finally show. I say someone else steps up.

        • Kaleb

          July 25, 2013 at 6:13 am

          There you go. Spiller busts and someone else is the most productive back on the team. Very logical prediction. Best of all is the stats/analysis to back up your claim.

      • Smcguiga

        July 25, 2013 at 7:27 am

        Kaleb, why you getting so worked up…not everyone thinks like you no need to get mean….I don’t see him as a 20 carry guy you obviously do(or more likely own him which completely slants your view)….I could have gotten spiller recently in a trade and passed as owner was asking too much and for reason I laid out here….relax Kaleb what you think won’t change anything

        • Kaleb

          July 25, 2013 at 7:48 am

          I’m not getting worked up, far from it. It just amuses me to read comments like “Player X won’t do good” without offering any reasoning whatsoever (okay, you brought up his size…). I do own him, but have been trying to sell him all offseason for some additional pieces that can help me down the road because my team doesn’t look to be competitive right now. I’ve said the same on other articles of guys I don’t own. Every man is entitled to their own opinion, but to throw out blanket statements without any supporting statistics or analysis irresponsible, at best.

          • Smcguiga

            July 25, 2013 at 8:53 am

            His size is the reason no reason to add much else, he is an explosive change of pace back with incredible pass catching ability…extremely valuable for sure but these numbers are ridiculous IMO…..ps bill offense is going to suck as well which hurts him even more

          • Kaleb

            July 25, 2013 at 9:01 am

            I guess I can see how his size might concern some (though, as previously mentioned, he’s the same size as Charles, who does have an injury history of his own) but I don’t see how the numbers are ridiculous. He was only 156 yards short of the rushing line and 41 yards short of the receiving line and that was with him starting only 9 games (playing all 16) and only accruing 250 total touches.

          • Ray

            July 25, 2013 at 12:55 pm

            I would take the under on this myself. I understand he was close to hitting this numbers last year and didnt start the entire year. My issue is same as most in that for him to get these numbers he has to approach 300 touches. I think if he is on a pace for 300+ you will see an injury. My same opinion goes for Charles, i want him in the 250 range and being explosive. If either of these 2 were to get to 300 touches it would hurt their yard per play average imo.

          • Ray

            July 25, 2013 at 12:57 pm

            and would possibly cost them some games or at the very least effectiveness in more than 1 outing

          • Kaleb

            July 25, 2013 at 1:25 pm

            At his career averages, he needs only 29 carries and 5 receptions to reach these numbers, putting him at 283. At last season’s averages, 26 and 4, putting him at 280. Nobody would argue that Charles wasn’t explosive last season and he had 320 touches. McCoy’s best season was one in which he had 323 touches. Chris Johnson’s best season came with 408 touches. CJ2K has eclipsed 300 touches every season in the league and has missed only 1 game his rookie year, all while weighing almost 10 lbs less than Spiller. Obviously anything could happen, and it’s not exactly going out on a limb to say “Player x will get hurt” because it’s the NFL but people staying away from Spiller for that reason come away as ignorant.

          • Ray

            July 25, 2013 at 11:03 pm

            what was i thinking…. your right and I am ignorant

            please continue

  13. Robert

    July 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Under/Over/Push.

    I’m guessing [email protected][email protected]=540/12-14TDs.

  14. Bruce Matson @bmatz08

    July 25, 2013 at 7:53 am

    Here’s what I wrote about him a few weeks ago.

    http://www.fwo365.com/apps/blog/show/30364095-why-you-should-be-interested-in-cj-spiller

    I am taking the over on him

  15. joemegansue

    July 30, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Fred Jackson isn’t going away. He is the captain of the Bill’s offense and Marrone will use him as long as he is healthy. This isn’t an ideal scenario for fantasy owners of CJ Spiller. However, CJ is an incredible talent and he will be very productive. He is a low risk for burn out or injury.
    I see Spiller getting 1100 rushing yards and 400 more through the air with 9 TDs. If ‘Fred Ex’ get’s hurt, I see Spiller’s value spike to top 5 RB.

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