By Kyle Wright Follow on Twitter @Kyle_Wright
For those of you who are just getting ready to start your draft in the coming days, you are likely debating on which running back you should target in the first round this year. Every man or woman who plays fantasy football wants to find that stud running back to lead their team to the championship of their league. There are only around 10-12 running backs that are considered first tier players in fantasy football. But which running back should you target?
Most fantasy football players will target players like Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, and Jamaal Charles (with good reason) in the first round of drafts, but not many are talking about a gem in Buffalo, NY.
In 2012 when Fred Jackson was injured, CJ Spiller stepped in and set career marks. Spiller carried the ball 207 times for 1,244 yards which comes out to an average of 6.0 yards per carry. That accomplishment has only been reached a handful of times in NFL history. If Spiller can keep up that YPC average or any where near that, while getting an additional 100-150 more carries in 2013, why cant Spiller surpass 2,000 rushing yards, let alone become the best running back in the NFL? The answer to that is, yes he can! Matter of fact, 2,000 rushing yards is one of Spiller’s personal goals for the 2013 season. Combine that with Spiller’s ability to play wide receiver, you are looking at a fantasy football stud in standard, PPR (points per reception), and dynasty leagues.
The “knock” on Spiller since being draft out of Clemson, was he would never be an every down back and has durability concerns. But Spiller has proven to be very durable in the 3 years he has been in the NFL, missing only 2 games. This offseason, Spiller has added muscle to his frame while mainting his speed and it shows averaging 5.7 yards per carry this preseason. I actually expect CJ Spiller to match or improve from last years production, in 2013.
Last week, Buffalo’s Offensive Coordinator, Nathanal Hackett told the media that: “We are going to give him (Spiller) the ball until he throws up!”. This statement didnt go over too well with Bills Head Coach, Doug Marrone, but it goes to show you how much faith the Bills coaching staff has in Spiller and how much of a workload they intend on putting on him. If you analyze Syracuse’s offense while Marrone was the head coach and Nathanel Hackett was the offensive coordinator, you will see their system leans heavily on the running backs, whether its from the back field or split out as a wide receiver. Buffalo plans to run an uptempo offensive attack this season with Spiller as the center piece. This week, Marrone confirmed that his team is averaging between 80-85 plays on offense per game this preseason and in training camp. Let’s just say Spiller will have plenty of touches this year.
When analyzing the top ten running backs from last season ranked by rushing yards, Spiller is eighth on the list. He attained that rank while totaling 50 less carries than any other back in the top 10, and 83 less than any running back ahead of him. This statistic alone and a handful of others, is likely what sealed Chan Gailey’s fate after the 2012 season, which led to his firing.
ProFootballFocus.com has a great system to rank running backs who maximize their opportunity with the ball in their hands. This statistic is called “Elusive Rating”. This statistic takes into account every play that a running back touches the ball, whether it be rushing or receiving. It tells us how a runner performs independent of the help of his blockers and takes into account the number of missed tackles forced and yards after contact. This is crucial to staying on the field in the NFL and thus in fantasy lineups to help give you the best shot at winning each week. It may be a surprise to many NFL fans (most likely not Bills fans), that CJ Spiller was something special to watch last year with the ball in hands.
Spiller is mostly known for his game-breaking speed, but it was his elusiveness and ability to break tackles last year which caught my eye. PFF graded Spiller with a 94.6 rating which led all running backs. In fact, he was significantly better than all running backs with atleast 200 carries or more.
Many may find CJ Spiller just an overhyped running back but im not buying it. When considering Spiller as a center piece of Buffalo’s offense, ability to play multiple positions, durability, offensive scheme, stats, and talent, there is no reason to not take CJ Spiller in top five picks of your fantasy football draft. I would go as far to say he may even be worth the first pick in your draft and wouldn’t think twice about it. Spiller will not disappoint in 2013!