In this edition of my fantasy football “Face-Off” series, I’m pitting two running backs with fairly similar skill sets against each other. Andre Ellington averaged 5.5 yards per carry in a limited role for the Arizona Cardinals last year, and he is in line for a big role this year as the team’s No. 1 running back. C.J. Spiller had a disappointing 2013 season for the Buffalo Bills, with 933 rushing yards on 202 carries, due at least in part to an ankle injury he played much of the season with.
As usual, I’ll offer a case for both Ellington and Spiller and then make my choice.
The Case For Andre Ellington
After totaling just 179 rushing yards (on 28 carries) through the first seven games of his rookie season, Ellington had 612 total yards (443 rushing yards and 169 receiving yards) over his next seven games. If you take out a dismal game in Week 11 against the Jacksonville Jaguars (nine carries for three yards, two catches for 10 yards), Ellington averaged nearly 100 yards from scrimmage in the other six games he played from Week 8-Week 16.
Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians aggressively projected 25-30 touches per game for Ellington in late May, which is unrealistic. That said, the coach more recently referred to Elllington as a “bell cow in our offense”, and he reportedly added 8-10 pounds this offseason.
Ellington only had 19 total touches in the red zone last year. That number will surely rise in 2014, and he had 31 touchdowns (29 rushing) over his final three seasons at Clemson.
The Case For C.J. Spiller
After his high ankle sprain in Week 4, Spiller had just 277 rushing yards in his next six games with no more than 13 carries in any of those contests. He did finish solidly though, with 426 rushing yards (5.4 yards per carry) over the final five games and at least 67 yards on the ground four times in that span.
Spiller declared himself 100 percent healthy, and entering the final year of his contract (2015 player option) motivation should not be an issue. He may give up a lot of goal line work to Fred Jackson, but Spiller is Buffalo’s best all-around running back and he’ll be a big part of the offense as long as he’s healthy.
Ellington and Spiller are both being drafted somewhere in the third round right now, with an upward boost for Ellington (26th overall) and a downward trend for Spiller (38th overall) in PPR formats (via Fantasy Pros.com). Spiller had 82 receptions and four receiving touchdowns in 2011 and 2012 combined, so it seems like he is being overlooked a bit as a back with added appeal in PPR leagues.
Frankly I’m not buying into Ellington has anything more than a low-end RB2 regardless of scoring format, and I will be avoiding him at his current ADP since I struggle to see a high ceiling with that in the equation. Spiller has a lot of risk attached to him, and the lingering possibility of a trade at some point soon stands to change his fantasy outlook, but I like him plenty enough to choose him over Ellington.