Get Outta the Way Fred, It’s Spiller Time!

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Published: April 8, 2013

C.J Spiller Fantasy Fantasy 2013

CJ Spiller fantasy football 2013The city of Buffalo hasn’t had much to cheer about over the last 25 years. After a decade filled with Super Bowl losses, Buffalo fans have spent the last 10-plus years watching Tom Brady and the Patriots dominate their division. To make matters worse, the Dolphins dominated the free agent market and look poised to make a move in the AFC East. So where do you find the silver lining in a team with no quarterback and little hope for a playoff bid?

The answer: C.J. Spiller.

It’s time for an official changing of the guard…err, running back. Don’t get me wrong, injury-free Fred Jackson is a great RB. Only problem is, “injury-free Fred Jackson” is an oxymoron. The eighth year back out of Coe College had his fifteen minutes of fame, but it’s time to move on. We are learning more and more each year that the window for a running back is only a few seasons. No longer are we seeing workhorses like Emmitt Smith age like a fine wine. They’re aging more like that left over casserole in the back of your fridge. It’s always out with the old in with the new. Running backs are replaceable now. With good blocking and the right play calling there are more than enough capable running backs that can make their mark on the league. Look at Ahmad Bradshaw. At age 27, the Giants already see him as that casserole.

At 32, Jackson is seeing the decline most running backs in their early 30s can’t seem to avoid. Father time has caught up to him, and for a RB with a history of injuries, it seems he’s aging at an even faster pace.

C.J Spiller on the other hand is young, nearing his prime. In just three seasons he’s already emerged as one of the league’s most explosive players. Of the top 10 leaders in rushing last season, Spiller (ranked 8th) had the fewest carries at 207. Frank Gore was the next lowest back with 258 carries. Spiller ran the ball 100 times less than the average of the other running backs in the top 10. Considering he ran at a clip of 6.0 yards per carry (only matched by Adrian Peterson), that’s a pretty telling sign that with the right workload, Spiller could explode in fantasy next year.

Buffalo’s move to hire Doug Marrone makes C.J Spiller even more appealing as a fantasy running back. Marrone’s offensive resume is quite impressive. As the Saints offensive coordinator from 2006-08, Marrone was considered one of the NFL’s top offensive gurus. Before New Orleans, Marrone was the offensive line coach for the New York Jets; coaching a unit that aided Curtis Martin to three 1,000-plus yard seasons, including a 1,697 yard effort in 2004. Since then, he’s completely turned around a Syracuse football program that hasn’t had anything to cheer about since Donovan McNabb. If there’s anybody that knows how to make the necessary changes to turn a football team around, it’s Doug Marrone. With a quick oriented attack, Spiller will reap the rewards.

If the Bills can draft a dynamic passer like Geno Smith or patch up their offensive line with Chance Warmack, an offensive lineman some scouts are calling the best guard prospect in the last 10 years, there’s only more reason to believe its Spiller Time.

Coaches realize the windows for these running backs are short. As a coach looking to make a good first impression, Marrone would be foolish to keep Spiller in the shadow of Jackson next season. Jackson will work in tandem with Spiller to some degree, but Spiller should be the go-to back.

The stats don’t lie. In a year in which Spiller was limited to just 250 touches, he still managed to gain 1,703 yards. That averages out to 6.81 yards per touch. To put that into perspective, Adrian Peterson averaged 5.96 yards per touch. Arian Foster: 4.2. Spiller was just as productive as Adrian Peterson per carry and even more productive per touch. I am not saying Spiller could handle Adrian Peterson’s workload, but with 16 full games as the true starter in Buffalo, Spiller’s stats should be nothing short of impressive.

C.J Spiller 2012 Season Split

Situation G Rush Yds Y/G Avg TD Rec Tgt Yds Y/G Avg Lng
Games 1-8 8 78 562 70.3 7.2 4 24 27 236 29.5 9.8 32
Games 9-16 8 129 682 85.3 5.3 2 19 30 223 27.9 11.7 66

The only reason why Jackson seems to be still apart of this duo in Buffalo is the change of pace he offers to the offense. It’s true, despite C.J Spiller’s amazing numbers he does seem to perform better when Fred Jackson can spell him from time to time. In the first 8 games Spiller’s averages were actually higher when in a split role, his TD’s were up and yards per carry average were up. This is even more of a selling point than you may think. If Spillers numbers are better with Fred Jackson as his relief, there is really no reason to talk yourself out of drafting him based on a split carry rotation. As it seems, keeping Spiller fresh keeps him productive. Still moving forward the team needs to recognize who’s boss, and many Fantasy gurus are hoping for a 70/30 split entering 2013. Considering the new offensive system revolves around a hurry-up offensive style, it’s likely Jackson will only step in when Spiller is gassed.

If there was any case you could make against Spiller as a fantasy stud, it would be his lack of scoring. Yards are great and all, but in fantasy, the touchdown is king. Spiller only found the end zone eight times last season. A mark that is sure to deter fantasy owners from drafting him as their RB1 next year. I urge you not to let that stat dissuade you from Spiller though. Touchdowns are largely based on luck and situational advantages. In a 1,900 yard season, Calvin Johnson only found the end zone five times.

Spiller’s potential production was limited by shared carries, the occasional injury and a turnover-prone offense. With Ryan Fitzpatrick gone and Doug Marrone at the helm, we’re likely to see a more conservative ground-and-pound style from the Bills, which should help them control the ball and give Spiller more red zone looks. For now, just focus on the positives. A player with Spiller’s speed and vision will pile up the yards. The touchdowns will follow.

C.J. Spiller is a first round draft pick. It might not be too long before we’re calling him CJ2K.

Photos: Zimbio

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