Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It's not even Week 1 yet and Bills running back C.J. Spiller has already achieved the impossible.
He's the first running back in league history to be both underrated and overrated at the same time (admittedly, I did not fact check this).
Everyone and their mom is calling Spiller this season's fantasy dark horse. I got news for you guys. If you're drafting him No. 5 overall, he's not much of a dark horse.
To be fair, I don't blame you for getting caught up in all the Spiller hype. The man did more with 207 carries last season than some players do with 300. He's young (26). He's healthy. He's a couple inches taller than me (That has to count for something, right?). And did I mention he runs like he's being shot out of a cannon?
Spiller is a tremendous talent. I'm just saying, I wouldn't put all my eggs in the C.J. basket, especially with so many other good backs flying under the radar. Here are five questions you should ask yourself if you're considering taking Spiller on draft day.
1. Can Spiller handle the workload? Even going back to college Spiller has never carried the ball more than 216 times in a single season. Now, for the first time in his NFL career, Spiller is the featured back and frankly, I'm not sure his body can handle it.
Look at some of the other top rushers in the league from last season. Almost all of them were bigger than Spiller. In fact, among the top-ten rushers in football last season, only Chris Johnson (191 pounds) and Jamaal Charles (199) weighed less than Spiller, who is listed at an even 200 pounds. Not that Spiller is the NFL's version of Rudy, but when you have 250-pound linebackers going after you like it's Shark Week, you're gonna take some big hits.
Buffalo offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said the Bills are going to run Spiller "until he throws up." Let's hope he doesn't end up in a hospital bed before that.
2. Will he score enough touchdowns? In his first three years in the league, Spiller never came close to double-digit touchdowns. In fact, he barely has double-digits for his career. His next six-pointer will be his 11th.
Despite putting up over 1,200 yards, Spiller failed to outscore all but three of the NFL's 16 1,000-yard rushers last season. Steven Jackson (four TD), Matt Forte (five) and Jamaal Charles (five) were the only 1,000-yard backs he was able to beat out.
So why is Spiller as allergic to scoring as my mom is to peanut butter? Probably because coaches don't trust him near the goal line. Only one of Spiller's six touchdown dashes in 2012 came from inside the ten. Which leads us to our third bullet point ...
3. What's the deal with Fred Jackson? Turns out, the longtime Bill is alive and well. Instead of completely handing over the reigns to Spiller, the Bills kept the 32-year-old Jackson around for some insurance.
Spiller received roughly three-fifths of Buffalo's running back carries last season (it was 56.1 percent to be exact). Those numbers would suggest that Spiller has a pretty good handle on things, especially now that Buffalo is committed to this bizarre "run until he throws up" concept. But the fact is, Jackson is still there and he should get at least a handful of chances to poke it in from short range this season. Jackson pulling vulture duty definitely doesn't help Spiller's chances of being a top-five running back.
4. How much do receiving stats really matter? What separates Spiller from most other running backs is that the Bills have been known to use him like a third or fourth wide receiver. Last year, he was third on the team in receiving yards with 459.
Obviously, that gives Spiller somewhat of a leg up, but is it enough to propel him into the fantasy top five? Here is where Spiller stands in comparison to some of the other running backs being drafted in the first round.
Receiving points last season
LeSean McCoy: 49
Ray Rice: 47
Doug Martin: 46
Trent Richardson: 35
So, in terms of receiving, the difference between Spiller and Richardson, who scored 11 touchdowns to Spiller's six, is about a point per game (3.31 ppg to 2.33). Is that one point really worth it? That's up to you.
5. Will he be consistent? Earlier this year, I sparked a bit of controversy (well, at least at my particular desk cluster) by professing my undying love for Redskins running back Alfred Morris.
The reason I'm so fond of Morris? It's because he's so consistent (only one game of fewer than 75 yards last season). Spiller ... well he's a completely different story.
After blowing up with a video game quantity of rushing yards in his first two games last season (292 yards), Spiller basically went on an eight-week hiatus. Over that span, he produced just 431 yards (53.9 per game), while crossing the end zone just once. During that stretch, Spiller did not record a single 100- yard game.
Wouldn't you rather have a player who's pretty good every week, instead of someone who has four or five big games and then goes MIA the rest of the season? I know I would.
So if he's not underrated and he's not overrated, I guess that makes Spiller ... just rated?
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