Fantasy Coin Toss: Saints RB C.J. Spiller

C.J. Spiller

The talented speed back moved on from Buffalo and will now be an integral part of Sean Payton’s offense in New Orleans. Spiller always seems to get nicked up, which has deterred him and some other talented backs, from entering the elite realm. Headlined by veterans like Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, and Matt Forte, availability continues to be the best ability that an upper echelon player has to offer.

Spiller is expected to have a big season, as not only a compliment to Mark Ingram, but a legitimate passing threat. The Saints routinely threw swing passes, let alone dumping the ball off at the last minute, to guys like Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Travris Cadet. Those players excelled at that role, and although Sproles may be the best of that group, Spiller is clearly the superior talent with even more untapped potential. You will definitely see Spiller get snaps and running routes from the slot this season.

I never really bought into Spiller as a fantasy football starter for the simple fact that I like to avoid injury prone players on struggling teams. Plus, 10 years from now, I’ll be one of the few die-hard fans in the world that will bring up Fred Jackson’s name. F-Jax has been good, not great, but an under appreciated running back throughout his career. Not quite on the Thurman Thomas level, another former Bill, and he’s a Hall of Famer!

Alright, let’s get back to the future, Spiller is in an excellent position to succeed and maintain his production under an offensive guru in Payton. Drew Brees has probably fallen in love with his new offensive playmaker already. Between trading Jimmy Graham, the declining Marques Colston and Ingram’s injury history, Spiller will immediately become a cog as a top-2 threat on the ground and through the air. The only target higher on the totem pole is second year playmaker Brandin Cooks.

Spiller wasn’t utilized as much in the passing game in Buffalo, perhaps in part to Jackson’s great pass protection and receiving skills. He will be asked to chip with a so-so line and shorter than average quarterback, but rest assured, Payton will draw up the plays to get Spiller in space and Brees will find him. I do believe the Saints have done what they could to predicate things on running the football. They have a pair of complimentary backs, not many proven weapons to throw to, and a weak defense. New Orleans has a shot to reach the postseason every year, especially in the NFC South, just as long as they keep Brees upright.

Do not let Ingram’s breakout year scare you away, because he still got banged up but chose to play through the pain in a contract season. Ingram has missed 14 regular season games since getting drafted in 2011. Spiller was pretty healthy before only playing 9 games in 2014. Drafted a year earlier in 2010, he’s only missed 10 games in comparison to his new teammate in the backfield. These Saints’ running backs face the 12th-easiest schedule at the position. Also considering that the defense allowed the 5th-most points last season, they could be trailing a lot and that caters more towards Spiller and his production. Not only should Spiller be the first complimentary back to go in the draft, he’s there to be more than a handcuff or change-of-pace back.

Before writing this article about Spiller and his fantasy football value, I mentioned some of these things to someone and they are now sold on Spiller as a better draft pick than Ingram. I wouldn’t quite go there when it comes to my approach to the draft. Ingram could have worked on his body armor this offseason to be more durable, and should greatly benefit from Spiller’s presence. I do believe that they are top-3 options in the offense, along with Cooks.

I don’t see a wide enough margin between usage and production to stop anyone from scooping up Spiller if he slides a few rounds past Ingram, which is where he should go. I won’t specifically target him and say he’s a must-have because I actually don’t trust the team or the player, but to be honest that’s just a personal preference. All in all, Spiller has good potential and gets the nod in this coin toss. He actually ranks higher than Ingram on FF Tool Box and Fantasy Football Calculator, but I think Pro Football Focus ranks him closer to my liking entering the season.