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Dynasty Dilemma: CJ Spiller

There are times when rookie running backs will absolutely drive you crazy. In college, they look like absolute studs – players you can build a dynasty team around for years. They have elite athleticism, eye-popping stats and a dynamic that can only be described as the “it” factor. NFL Draft scouts drool over their potential and make everyone think they’re the next great thing in fantasy and reality.

Then it all comes crashing down.

Such was the case with Buffalo Bills running back CJ Spiller, whose rookie season with the Bills can only be described as an epic disaster. After being drafted with the ninth overall pick in the 2010 draft, Spiller was  rarely used as a rookie and posted an anemic 283 rushing yards on 74 carries and added just 157 yards on 24 receptions. While nobody expected him to come in and be a featured back, this was still shocking considering the fact that Spiller was coming off an electric season at Clemson where he posted over 1,700 total yards and 17 scores.

I remember repeatedly wondering why the Bills took Spiller in the draft if they weren’t going to utilize him. Sure, there were some red flags, but they didn’t even give him much of a chance to prove he wasn’t worthy of being a featured back or even a situational one at that. I recall a preseason game where he bounced three straight runs to the outside and thinking to myself, “uh oh, he doesn’t seem willing to run through the tackles.” Still, I thought he’d at least get some opportunities t0 touch the ball. The emergence of Fred Jackson was also a big reason why Spiller was left watching much of the time. Still, it looked like dynasty league owners had wasted top five pick on a player who was little more than a kick returner.

Going into last season, Spiller was a major question mark for dynasty league owners and again, it started out horribly. Through ten games in 2011, he had just 115 rushing yards and 82 receiving yards on 36 total touches. Meanwhile, Fred Jackson was tearing through the league and looking like a late blooming fantasy stud.

Then came the big injury.

When Jackson went down with a fractured fibula, Spiller finally took advantage of his opportunity and didn’t look back. Over the last six games of the season, he recorded 446 rushing yards on a robust 5.2 yards per carry and added 205 receiving yards on 24 catches. Throw in five touchdowns and you had the makings of a fine RB2 in fantasy leagues.

That brings us to the present.

On the positive side, it’s obvious that Spiller has talent. He’s a nightmare for a defense in the open field and can create mismatches all over the place. In fact, in many leagues he was given a designation to be used as a RB or a WR, which can certainly be a nice luxury for fantasy owners – just don’t expect that to carry over to next season.

The Bills have been saying all the right things about Spiller this offseason as well. It’s apparent he’s going to be able to compete with Jackson for the starting job and he showed the ability to carry a good load during the end of 2011. With Jackson coming off injury and recently turning 31, it’s obvious the future at running back in Buffalo involves Spiller in some way, shape or form. In fact, Jackson has still yet to be signed to a long term contract and you can bet Spiller’s emergence is going to give the Bills a lot of leverage in contract negotiations.

If you take Spiller’s stats from his last six games and stretch them out over an entire season, you get an undeniably great fantasy performer. After all, wouldn’t you take 1,184 rushing yards, 544 receiving yards and 13 total touchdowns from your RB2?

Problem is, it’s not all wine and roses with Spiller.

While his production over the last half of the year was great, it still did come with Jackson being gone. The Bills have said time and time again that Jackson will be re-signed and that’s going to adversely affect Spiller’s production. While he won’t likely go back to the days of getting just three touches a game and returning kickoffs, it’s also not likely he gets 20 touches any time soon, either. Even if Spiller beats Jackson out for the job, he won’t be a true featured back.

There are also concerns about Spiller holding up over an entire season. The Bills coaching staff was reportedly pretty concerned about his workload towards the end of the year, thus fueling speculation that Spiller would never truly be a primary back on the team. While they’re saying the right things now, it’s likely more about leverage in Jackson’s contract negotiations.

Spiller also still hesitates in running through the tackles. While it didn’t hamper him too much at the end of the year, you can still see the hesitation in him at times. It’s awful tough to see him be included in goal line carries, thus forcing his owners to hope for long touchdowns, which are very tough to predict.

So, now what?

With Spiller, I think it’s pretty simple. He seems like a player with a skill set similar to Darren Sproles, but with an offense nowhere near as explosive as New Orleans. Penciling him in for anything more than 1,000-1,200 total yards and a handful of touchdowns would be asking a lot. On the same token, it seems that would be a pretty safe yardage and touchdown assumption.

If you have an owner who views him as something more than that, I’d jump on it. Spiller is the type of player you shop around to see how others view him, then likely hold on to him and cross your fingers. I’d just hesitate in buying right now if the price tag is anywhere close to a top 15 running back.

Ken Kelly
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Sensei_John_Kreese
10 years ago

I cannot comment objectively

#gobills

DLF_KenK
Reply to  Sensei_John_Kreese
10 years ago

This actually explains a lot.

=)

Sensei_John_Kreese
Reply to  DLF_KenK
10 years ago

You mean the anger, huh?

Maybe

Al
10 years ago

Spiller is bigger, stronger, and faster than Sproles. The only concern I have is the time share, but this guy should still be a top 15 rb if you can expect 180 carries and 50 receptions.

The Bills utilized both Jackson and Spiller as wide receivers throughout the season and I think that will continue and will be a way for both to get extra snaps and fantasy pts.

DLF_KenK
Reply to  Al
10 years ago

I would agree that Spiller is bigger and stronger, yes. I think the speed is debatable when compared to Sproles.

However, the point I was trying to illustrate is that their skill set is very similar in their ability to run, catch and play special teams. In no way is that a bad thing at all, in fact it could be a very good thing.

If he gets the 180/50 you hope for and averages around 5 yards per touch, that would give him right around the 1,000-1,200 total yards and a handful of touchdowns I had put down as right in the middle of the zone where expecting any more would be getting dangerous.

I think we’re on the same page as far as the ceiling for production would be. That could put him on the cusp of a top 15 ranking, but there’s enough risk there to make me hesitate in trading value equal to that.

Al
Reply to  DLF_KenK
10 years ago

Good pts and great article/site btw. I look at those numbers as a slightly above a floor for spiller this year with a big increase going forward after that.

Im also an extreme high upside gambler who right now has as starters stafford/dmac/best/harvin/gates.

Chris
10 years ago

CJ Spiller is the new Jonathan Stewart. 🙁

DLF_KenK
Reply to  Chris
10 years ago

I’m not sure he has the ceiling of Stewart, but he may not have the floor for the year, either.

Maddening.

Warren
Reply to  DLF_KenK
10 years ago

For this year, I agree-too many options in Carolina. Overall, Stewart has a much higher floor and will at least be solid when he gets touches. Spiller is a player that will either be really good or really bad. I just don’t think that there is a middle ground with him. I’ll take the player who I am confident will be solid over the up-and-down-type player.

tebow
10 years ago

unleash the beast and give him his touches

Meens
10 years ago

Spiller showed some talent last year. However, If Fred Jackson is healthy, hes way better even at age 31. I’d consider Spiller a hold unless you find an owner that thinks hes something more than he is. Spiller put up nice numbers when Jackson was out, but just remember when Fred eventually retires/declines, the Bills are sure to have a committee partner come in to split the load with Spiller. Last year Johnny White and Tashard Choice were his only competition during FJ’s injury. Hope for RB2 numbers down the road, RB1 probably isnt ever happening. Just my 2 cents.

Justin
10 years ago

I just bought Spiller myself. Owner really need WR’s and I managed to get Spiller and a 2013 first for Maclin. If Spiller puts up the numbers you suggested (1000-1200 yards) I’d be more than happy.

Misfit74
10 years ago

Spiller is only comparable to Sproles in the sense that he can run really fast and catch the ball well in a variety of ways. Spiller can handle much more between the tackles running that Sproles ever could or would.

While I think modest expectations are important, this situation isn’t all that different from Ryan Mathews’ situation heading into the 2011 season. Now Mathews is being drafted as early as mid round 1 in startups and the time to buy-low has long since passed.

Spiller is at a cross-roads of ‘if you believe in him you keep him. If not, you’ll probably screw up and sell low just to be really mad you did’ this time next year.

I think the threat of a 31-year-old Fred Jackson is worth considering but largely being over-blown and causing too much fear and apprehension about Spiller, as evidenced by the thought process in this article. I think if you don’t pay top-15 RB value you likely won’t get Spiller and if you don’t get top-15 RB value for him then you probably shouldn’t sell him, either.

DLF_KenK
Reply to  Misfit74
10 years ago

Yeah, I think the issue isn’t Jackson himself, but more the reluctance to truly give Spiller a big workload. As I mentioned, Spiller is the only constant in this mix in the long term. The Bills are just as likely to find an eventual replacement for Jackson as part of the committee.

The big question Spiller will need to answer is If he will be considered option a or option b?

Krcil
10 years ago

Interesting question… In a dynasty trade, do you still take Spiller over Jackson at this point?

Personally I think you do just because of the momentum of both players. (Spiller’s momentum is up; Jackson’s down because of injury)

Jackson C.
10 years ago

For a starting 8-team dynasty (no IDPs or player contracts) do you think that 40 total players is a good amount?

Luke
Reply to  Jackson C.
10 years ago

That would leave 5 players per team? Unless you mean 40 for each team, which is way too much for a non IDP league. 25 per team is what my leagues usually have

Jackson C.
Reply to  Luke
10 years ago

It is “per team.” But I want a league with depth. A league where you could keep a Kendall Hunter or Damian Williams.

Krcil
Reply to  Jackson C.
10 years ago

I just started a 8-team dynasty with IDP’s with 40 man rosters. My suggestion would be to get AT LEAST 2 more owners to add depth. Other wise keeping the deep players is lost … unless you expand the playing roster as well..

But my one regret was not getting 2 more owners…

sixshooter
Reply to  Krcil
10 years ago

I am in a 12 team, 27 player roster which expands to 35 players in the offseason and it seems to be maxed out becuase you have to have some players available on the waiver wire during the season.

And yes….Kendall Hunter and Damian Williams are on somebody’s roster so it does meet your criteria.

If you do the math and drop our league down to 8 teams, it would mean a 33 player roster in your league so that should give some idea as to where you want to be with depth. 40 is too deep!

pancakes
10 years ago

its terribly convenient for ownership how saving the tread on the tires for RB also provides for a situation with no contract leverage at all with dimished stats. i am frankly surprised the NFL owners/management didn’t think of this a long time ago

skip
10 years ago

I have been a HUGE proponent of Spiller on the forums since before he was drafted.

Fred Jackson is 31 years old coming off a major injury. The number of healthy RBs as starters in the NFL at that age is? Zero. There is way too much history to suggest that anyone but Spiller will be starting this season in Buffalo.

I already have him rated as a top 10 RB with the talent to move higher. He was the first RB drafted in 2010 for a reason. And selected as a top 10 pick for a reason. Owners weren’t patient with DMC and it burned them. Dynasty owners will be foolish in making the same mistake with Spiller.

nzkoston
Reply to  skip
10 years ago

Im a big on spiller too! though i cant help but think about what happened to me with Moreno. i got burned by Moreno taking him 2nd overall in his rookie year and just decided to drop him this year. Im really hoping Spiller doesnt become irrelivent like this. I got Spiller for what i saw as a steal in the bottom end of the 2nd round of our rookie/fa draft that year. but i never thought i’d be holding him for this long to get any production! I thought the same thing as said earlier, they didnt pick him 9th overall not to use him. I hope my patience with Spiller pays off, it did with Mathews.

tebow
10 years ago

i got burned by blown-knee moreno also but it takes 2 full years for an rb to gain the coaches trust and learn the offense since pass blocking is such an important part of a rbs role these days.the roles have reversed now a wr is supposed to come outta the gates firing and rbs take time to mature and grow into a mans body. a 21 kid is different than a 25 year old man,dont sell spiller right be fore he takes off,i made the same mistake with beanie and dmc. in college these guys didnt have to learn and werent playing against grown men so it takes time to adjust

Trimble
10 years ago

Would you trade Stevie Johnson for Spiller straight up in a 1 ppr league?

Colt54
10 years ago

Would you sell Cruz to get Spiller and 1.04. The guy wants something a little more like a draft pick or something but is this reasonable?
I haven’t decided the value of Cruz or Spiller yet.

mark
10 years ago

cj.spiller is the next j.charles type running back he will blow up more if given the touches and even if they bring someone in down the road to play inside ala t.jones…. spiller will be top 15 now and top 10 soon ….

Jason
10 years ago

I’m in 16 team dynasty league. Today I traded away Demarco Murray for Stevan Ridley and CJ Spiller. I should mention I also have Fred Jackson.

My league is TD heavy, so while Murray put up yards, Dallas threw too much when in the red zone. I thought Murray’s value was high right now. Secondly, I think Ridley gets the bulk of the rushes for the Pats, particularly at the goal line. Lastly, Spiller may just be a late bloomer. There are several backs that took time to develop at the NFL level (e.g. Priest, Willie Parker, Reggie Bush – if he actually has).

What’s your take?

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