2013 Fantasy Football: Could C.J. Spiller Be This Season's Best Running Back?

By Jim Heath
C.J. Spiller
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

If you compare the top three projected Fantasy Football running backs the last five years with their actual rank at the end of the season, you will notice some rather alarming trends. First and foremost, the annually projected number one hasn’t finished the year number one – not good news for Adrian Peterson fans. Next, only two running backs in five years projected to be a top three back actually finished the season in the top three.

If these current trends hold true, there is a name outside the top three projected running backs that will be top dog at season’s end. Who could it be? After much pondering, countless film sessions, bending and twisting numbers and a gut feeling that just won’t go away – my money is on Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller.

Here’s the thing about Spiller, his numbers are good but they aren’t great. He rushed for 1,244 yards last year. Obviously less than Peterson and Arian Foster; Spiller’s numbers are also less than running backs Doug Martin, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch and even Steven Ridley, who ran in the crowded New England Patriots backfield last season.

I am traditionally conservative; I need numbers to back decisions. So this gut feeling that I cannot shake has me a bit confused. Therefore, I divert to the film cause the numbers certainly don’t back this prediction.

And that is where things become crystal clear.

There are recorded stat lines that show up in the box scores of every game and there are other stats that never see paper and are never recorded, but hold just as much importance. Let me give you an example. The box score for a baseball game may show batter A going 3-4 while batter B goes 0-3. If I asked you to tell me who the better hitter that night was, without hesitation you would respond batter A. Seems logical, right?

What if you actually watched the game and you saw that the three hits batter A had were slow rollers that never left the infield, while batter B had three hard shots to the alleys only to be snagged by three incredible defensive plays? Would that change your answer as to who the better hitter was? Me too.

Spiller is batter B. His stat lines don’t tell the complete story. If you watched the Bills in 2012, Spiller was drastically under utilized. He had a per carry average of 6.0 yards, but only carried the ball 207 times. And how many times did Spiller get the Bills in to the red zone and then have to depart the field in favor of Fred Jackson?

Exit Chan Gailey enter new coach Doug Marrone – things should be different for Spiller in 2013. Gailey spent last season limiting Spiller’s carries out of fear of wearing down Buffalo’s primary offensive weapon. Marrone’s philosophy is far different, already on record declaring he will not limit the carries of his backfield.

With the fear of restrictions lifted, you can now look at the complete package that is Spiller. He is a dual threat as a runner and receiver out of the backfield with the explosion and athleticism to find pay dirt every time he touches the ball.

There is a risk with any top tier back in today’s Fantasy Football world, but Spiller certainly appears to be a safe bet, especially considering his multifaceted talents on the football field. Most preseason rankings show Spiller going after the top five backs, some as low as 10.

Value is something you don’t generally get with top tier running backs in today’s Fantasy Football drafts – Spiller just may be the exception to that rule.

Jim Heath is a Fantasy Football writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @jim_heath, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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