At the beginning of Buffalo Bills training camp in 2013, first year offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett claimed that C.J. Spiller would get the ball “until he throws up.” During his breakout season in 2012, Spiller received 250 touches (207 rushes, 43 receptions) for a combined 1,703 yards and eight touchdowns. It seemed heading into the 2013 season that Spiller was ready to improve on those impressive numbers. Unfortunately, many Bills fans and fantasy owners were the ones that were left throwing up after Spiller’s unimpressive 2013 season. Spiller amassed just 234 touches (201 rushes, 33 receptions) for a combined 1,112 yards and two touchdowns in 2013.
There are two major factors that could possibly have played a role in the diminished numbers that Spiller produced this year. Spiller sustained an ankle injury during Week 4 of the season and continued to play on the gimpy ankle for most of the year.
Spiller claimed, via the team’s website, “I think we just had an obstacle in the road when I got injured in Week 4. It kind of hindered some of the things we were able to do with me. When you keep coming in and out of games, it’s hard to really get a guy going like that.”
A player whose game is based around his speed and agility will no doubt have his production hampered when playing on a bad wheel. The second factor behind Spiller’s down year was the reemergence of Fred Jackson. The veteran had a combined 254 touches (207 rushes, 47 receptions) for a total of 1,283 yards and 10 touchdowns. The 2013 season was the first time Jackson had played in more than 10 games since 2010, so it makes sense that before the 2013 season, the Buffalo coaching staff predicted Spiller would carry the lion’s share of the load.
Looking forward to the 2014 season, Spiller claimed, “I don’t have any concerns or any doubts what my role will be.”
In terms of fantasy value for the upcoming season, Spiller will most likely not be a top option at RB in the 2014 fantasy drafts due to his paltry, inconsistent performance and Jackson’s renaissance. The Buffalo Bills’ backfield doesn’t look too promising in general this upcoming season due to the team’s poor offensive line play and playing time between Jackson and Spiller being split almost in half for most of the season. However, if fantasy owners were looking to take one of the two Bills running backs, Jackson would be the smarter choice. He received the majority of carries inside the red zone due to his size and ability to move the pile. Spiller has game-breaking speed that not many players possess in the NFL and he always has the ability to score long touchdowns. However, fantasy owners should prefer the security of Jackson’s red-zone touches in 2014.
Verdict: Fantasy owners shouldn’t think about drafting Spiller until the fourth round of the draft at least. Spiller will begin next season as a high-end RB3 due to his game-breaking abilities and could creep into RB2 territory with impressive production, but the presence of Jackson and the inconsistency of the Buffalo offense will cap his upside.