Spiller might not be Best rookie runner
Posted May. 10 at 06:07 AM
The more I look at the rookie running backs, the more I think that Jahvid Best might be better than C.J. Spiller. Certainly, Best looks like a much better value being selected 30th overall – 21 picks after Spiller.
A head-to-head comparison of these backs:
Similar. Spiller is 5-foot-11, 196. Best is 5-foot-10, 199.
Similar. They were the fastest two backs at the combine. Best ran 4.35; Spiller ran 4.37.
Best was a more productive runner in college. In the last two years, he ran for 2,447 yards and 27 TDs, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. Spiller ran for 1,841 yards and 19 TDs, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. So Best ran for 606 more yards, averaged almost 2 more yards per carry and ran for 8 more TDs. In the last two years, Best has scored 9 TD runs from 50-plus yards; Spiller has scored 1.
Definitely Spiller. He returned 4 kickoffs and a punt for touchdowns last year.
They’re both good receivers, but Spiller seems to catch the ball better. He caught 70 passes for 939 yards and 7 TDs the last two years. That’s 13.4 yards per catch. Best in the same time period caught 49 passes for 459 yards and 5 TDs, averaging 9.4 yards per catch. So 21 more receptions, 2 more TDs and 4 more yards per catch for Spiller.
They’re both going to teams will lousy offensive lines.
Other running backs
Buffalo has Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. Detroit has Kevin Smith and Maurice Morris (and Smith is coming off an ACL surgery). Even if the Bills move Lynch before opening day, there is more potential for touches to be take away from Spiller.
Other skill positions
Detroit wins easily at every position. Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew crush Trent Edwards (or Ryan Fitzpatrick), Lee Evans, Shawn Nelson and James Hardy (or whoever they start at wide receiver).
Best had the serious concussion issue late last year, but Spiller also has had a lot of injuries. Neither one looks very durable.
Bottom line: I don’t see a lot of difference between these back. I expect whichever one does a better job of staying healthy will post better numbers. Certainly, I can’t say with any confidence that Spiller definitely will be better than Best. (There’s also, of course, Ryan Mathews in San Diego; he’s not as talented as these guys but is going into a better situation – he may put up the best numbers of the rookie runners).
Posted by Farhan Hassan | May. 10 at 06:20 AM
Given the recent success of running backs not taken in the first round (Ray Rice, MJD and last year, Shonn Green), is it foolish to consider Ben Tate and Hardesty in the same group as Ryan Mathews, Spiller and Best? I think one can make a case that Houston is also a very good situation (offense wise) for a running back.
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | May. 10 at 06:51 AM
I don't think it's foolish, but I think you have to look at things on a case by case basis. Specifically WHY did some backs fall versus some others? Jones-Drew in particular and Rice to some extent fell at least in part because they are smaller tailbacks; NFL GMs, I think, questioned whether they were large enough to be starting running backs in the league. (Mind you, I don't know for certain that this is true, but this was my sense at the time.) Hardesty in particular and Best also, I think -- Jim Schwartz conceded this -- fell because of injury concerns. Best missed games in all three college seasons due to a variety of injuries; most people saw footage of the concussion that basically ended his college career. Hardesty also had an extensive injury history. As for Tate, no significant injury history or concerns about his size; he probably fell in part because he was only a one-year starter. I guess I'm saying that all second-round backs are not alike, and I personally am less wary of guys who fall because of perhaps their size or something (I really liked Rice coming out) than the injury bug.
Posted by IAN ALLAN | May. 10 at 06:52 AM
It's possible. Houston can score. But I'm not sure Tate is even better than Arian Foster. He could be their No. 3 back (they've also got Slaton). You are wise to point out that other, seemingly lesser backs in the second and third rounds have posted good numbers. But as of right now, I would rather have any one of the first-round guys, rather than all three of the second rounders combined.
Posted by Robert Heater | May. 10 at 11:55 AM
From a pure talent standpoint Spiller is miles ahead of everyone else. The tape doesn't lie for this kid. As far as fantasy numbers next year Mathews is just the smart money. He's gonna see plenty of carries sharing with Sproles including valuable attempts at the goal line. With Rivers and those receivers keeping defenses from crowding the line, Mathews has an excellent setup for the transition to the pro game. I'd have to take Spiller next because I'm such a believer in his talent, and in keeper leagues I would consider him first. More so if it is ppr. How the Bills passed on Clausen I have no idea, the Bills passing game still looks grim for the foreseeable future. An unfortunate knock against Spiller, ultimately placing a lower ceiling on his fantasy potential. I like what I see from Best when he runs, but am legitimately scared about his concussion. These days a concussion is gonna knock a player (ESPECIALLY A YOUNG RB) out of commission for at least 2 weeks. The hits are only gonna get harder in the NFL and I'm more concerned about him taking hits than I am for Mathews or Spiller. Of course should he dodge the injury bug all year he could win OROY. Those three look like the top fantasy runners of '10 but I also really liked what I saw from Hardesty and he could perform very well even in a timeshare.
Posted by IAN ALLAN | May. 10 at 12:13 PM
"The tape doesn't lie". You lost me there. Best is faster. Best runs for more yards. Best averages almost 2 more yards per carry. If you're looking for TD runs of 50-plus yards (which you can see on tape via YouTube), it's 9-1 in favor of Best. So how does that translate into Spiller being miles ahead?
Posted by Brian Grzybowski | May. 10 at 01:18 PM
Assuming that Spiller were the better back (and I'm with Ian, there is scant evidence that he is) we have seen time and again that running backs can be at the mercy of the situation they land in more than other positions. Looking at the schedules, Spiller and Best might be favored to win only two games this year (and one of those is a game against each other). I can sense Ian reaching for the folder marked "Correlation of rushing production to winning." Is there a way you guys could compile a list of the best 20 runners on teams that finished 4-12 or worse? I'm betting the only name that repeats on the list is Steven Jackson. Because that is what we are talking about with these two runners- lousy situations. I'm of the opinion that the prognosis for Best is better over the long term. They changed the front office situation in Detroit and it appears to be improved- the picks are panning out. The Bills are a disaster and would be considered the least competent staff if not for the Raiders. This is not a good situation for a young runner. This is a situation where the coach is gone in three years and anyone with talent demands a trade.
Posted by IAN ALLAN | May. 10 at 02:02 PM
Let's be careful not to rank those guys too low. Detroit seems to be headed in the right direction. I could see them sneaking past Chicago in the NFC North. And the Bills, as bad as they are, were actually an average rushing team last year (without Spiller), averaging around 115 yards per game. Both might catch 30-40 passes, helping them in fantasy. As for good backs on bad teams, I'll try to pull that out this week. Corey Dillon is one that comes to mind.
Posted by Robert Heater | May. 11 at 06:15 AM
By tape doesn't lie, I mean the magic in Spiller's feet is readily apparent. There is no metric for vision but I see greatness in Spiller from the timing and direction of his cuts and the acceleration he has through them. His ability to setup a move on a defender downfield while simultaneously juking the man in front of him has shades of Marshall Faulk (hope that didn't sound too blasphemous). I am not knocking Best, but I just do not think he has the same level of balance or pure running instinct that Spiller does. Best certainly has great talent, I put him as 3rd at worst among rookie RB's. However, watching Spiller is artistry in motion. If you want to mention big plays, Spiller had 7 KR for TD's in 74 career returns.... Best had 0 in 32 tries. Jahvid Best's game logs also is cause for pause. He fared significantly worse against superior competition such as Oregon, USC, and AZ state (1 TD total). He wasn't finding too much room against Oregon State before suffering his season ending concussion either. To his credit tho, he did beat up on the inferior competition. Spiller's game log is much more consistent, and in his two worst games from scrimmage statistically..... he opened those games with 96 and 88 yard KO return TD's. Best is an explosive RB, but Spiller spells game changer. Love your work Ian!!
Posted by JUSTIN ELEFF | May. 17 at 05:34 PM
Not sure I would've written it as "the tape doesn't lie," but I'm with Robert on "the magic in Spiller's feet." There hasn't been a back I'm as certain can dance his way into a hole that wasn't there since Barry Sanders. Spiller slips would-be tacklers so fluidly they ought to be called something else. Which is fortunate, because would-be tacklers do the same to the Bills' would-be blockers ...
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