Fantasy football is knocking on the doorstep and CJ Spiller is one of more intriguing players in this year’s draft. Spiller was a consensus first round pick last year due to his incredible 2012 showing (see above video) combined with the workload that Buffalo’s coaching staff had planned for him. There is no denying that Spiller disappointed fantasy owners, rushing for 933 yards (4.6 YPC) on 202 carries with a meager 185 yards receiving on 33 receptions. On top of that, Spiller only reached the end zone twice all season, pathetic for a 1st round pick.
Now, heading into the 2014 season, Spiller is currently being drafted in the mid-third round, a full two rounds later than last season. There are two primary reasons why owners are backing off this season, the first being that Spiller is “injury prone” and “can’t stay healthy” and the second being that Buffalo’s backfield is “too crowded” and it’s a “RBBC” situation. Personally, I am sick of hearing both of these reasons because they just aren’t true. You may think that I am biased as a Bills fan, but I assure you that I watch every NFL game in great detail so that I can approach fantasy with a fair and honest perspective. I don’t just watch games, I watch plays, often over and over again, slowed down here, paused there and of course with the ALL22 film as well which often tells a completely different story.
When we take a closer look at Spiller’s numbers and the injuries that plagued him for the majority of 2013 and briefly in 2012, we’re left with these facts. Spiller sustained a separated shoulder on 9/23/12 versus the Browns where he was tackled and landed on by the defender squarely on his shoulder, right on the button with no give in either direction. I have watched this play over and over in slow motion and firmly believe this was a “freak play”. Had the defender been a split second sooner or later in making the tackle, Spiller would have most likely avoided injury all together. Even so, Spiller gutted it out and played all 16 games in 2012, although clearly limited in the two games that followed. He finished the season strong with touch totals of 25, 15, 15, 20, 26 and 26 in six out of the last seven games, not exactly a light workload.
CJ Spiller 2012 Highlights Video
His second minor injury came in the preseason of 2013 where he took a spike to the knee and sustained a cut, however the injury was just a scare and Spiller missed no time because of it, again somewhat of a “freak injury”. Apparently, these two minor injuries weren’t enough to keep Spiller out of the first round last year, which brings us to his third and most notable injury, the dreaded high ankle sprain suffered in Week 4 against the Ravens. Before the injury, Spiller was off to a slow start and was shut down in Week 1 versus the Patriots and Week 3 against the Jets. In Week 2 versus the Panthers, Spiller did rush for over 100 yards on just 16 attempts against what turned out to be one of the better run defenses in the league. After the high ankle sprain, Spiller was just not the same guy. After starting the season with touch totals of 22, 19, 11 and 23 his playing time was cut drastically and he was seen constantly hobbling off the field on just about every play. Spiller was unable to establish any rhythm and noticeably lost his burst and cutting ability. Spiller sat out Week 8 at New Orleans, but Week 5 through Week 17, bum ankle and all, Spiller amassed 703 rushing yards on 136 carries for a 5.16 average, slightly higher than LeSean McCoy at 5.12 and significantly higher than Adrian Peterson at 4.54 yards per carry. Spiller finally started looking healthy again around the middle of December and finished the season with touch totals of 14, 24 and 24. I don’t think I can stress how limiting a high ankle sprain is for a player, especially a finesse back who relies heavily on burst and agility. Roddy White’s 2013 season was a major disappointment as he sustained the same injury and up until that point, White had played in every single game of his career, all 16 for eight straight seasons. “Injury prone” and “can’t stay healthy” are too often thrown around and I think it’s important to really look at the type of injury and how that injury occurred. In Spiller’s case and in Roddy’s, a high ankle sprain is not something I would be worried about moving forward. Roddy White is certainly not injury prone and I don’t believe Spiller is either. On top of that, Spiller appears to have a high tolerance for pain and is willing to gut it out and take that pain rather than watch from the sidelines.
That brings us to Buffalo’s backfield in 2014. As I’ve already stated, Spiller was receiving a good amount of touches when healthy, often in the 20-25 range. Buffalo ran the ball more than any team in the NFL last year, a whopping 546 times. Given the high paced offense combined with the depth at running back and a young EJ Manuel, I don’t expect this number to fluctuate much. There is plenty of ball to go around and the Bills have openly stated that Spiller is the feature back this season. An important thing to remember is that Spiller is in a contract year. There are rumors that it may be his last season in Buffalo, meaning either way, the Bills need to find out what Spiller is truly capable of. They aren’t going to let him walk without giving him the opportunity to showcase his talent and likewise, they aren’t going to re-sign him without seeing what he can do with a heavier workload. Fred Jackson might still have some gas left in the tank and although his mileage is relatively low, 33 years old is still pushing it. I believe that the real question isn’t how many touches will Spiller get, but how many of Fred’s 200+ touches will the young and talented Bryce Brown see? I also believe that Brown was brought in to be Jackson’s future replacement. Given the number of plays that the Bills run, two skilled running backs are necessary in this uptempo offense.
It’s easy to call Spiller injury prone or to believe that Buffalo is going to use a committee approach, but when you dig below the surface, Spiller’s usage last season was a direct result of his ankle injury. It’s too early to call him “injury prone” given the fact he hasn’t torn, broke or pulled anything and hasn’t sustained any concussions. In the grand scheme of things, Spiller has played in 46 out of his last 48 games from 2011-2013, although he exited early and was limited in many of those games. Despite his limitations last season, Spiller had 235 total touches and I would not be surprised if he finished 2014 with over 300 touches. He would need 19 touches per game to reach this mark, certainly possible given his previous workload when healthy. Nobody questions Spiller’s talent, only his durability and the crowded Buffalo backfield. Neither of these is any concern to me, but what is a concern is his TD totals and touches near the goal line. I expect Fred Jackson, Frank Summers and Anthony Dixon to get the bulk of goal line carries. Still, Spiller’s overall talent combined with his receiving ability still gives him high first round upside. Due to the lack of goal line opportunities, Spiller is just not worthy of a 1st round pick this fantasy season but on the flipside, the 3rd round is a bit too far in the opposite direction. I personally hope that Spiller’s ADP stands pat, because I have no problem drafting him as early as the second round. Buffalo’s coaching staff recently stated the depth at running back will allow them to use Spiller more as a receiver, which would obviously get him more touches, often in space. Don’t be afraid to take a shot on Spiller this season. He’s 100% healthy and reports are that he’s back to “cutting on a dime.” Spiller recently told reporters that he “hasn’t felt this good since 2012”. We all know what happened in 2012.
Breaking News @ FantasyBallblogger;
Get ready for the Ballblogger's Legends League. We have some of the biggest names in the industry competing in this epic league that will crown a legend among legends.
Listen Up Fantasy Ballers;
Follow these Ballblogger approved sites right now; FantasyFootballPlaybook, Razzball.com. BlindsideFootball.com
RotoExperts, DailyFantasyRosters, The Infirmary Report
More Important News
If you haven't yet, make sure you follow @NickCapozzi and get your 32 in 32 tickets asap. Tell him a Ballblogger sent you and good things will happen.
Enjoy the day and keep in touch...