2013 Fantasy Football Preview: The Curious Case Of CJ Spiller’s ADP

Courtesy: Jack Kurzenknabe
Courtesy: Jack Kurzenknabe


I don’t exactly remember when I first discovered Kool-Aid, but it has been awhile since I’ve had a sip of the once delicious beverage. I can tell you I still remember opening my fridge and spotting the pitcher with the colorful sugar water inside. After spending hours outside, it was tough to top that feeling.

As my childhood progressed, I began to discover new drinks that satisfied my thirst. I slowly fazed the Kool-Aid man out of my life (OH NO!) and now he is nothing more than a figment of my youth.

Why did I just spend 100 words describing how I feel about a drink that surely has been discovered to be harmful for children?

You can thank everyone who has drafted, or has advised drafting C.J. Spiller in the first round this year. It’s understandable why Spiller has been vaulted up into the luxurious pad of first round talent. Only four other running backs in the history of the NFL have rushed for 1,000 yards with a yards per attempt total of 6.0 or higher:

Year Player Attempts Yards YPA TDs
1973 OJ Simpson 335 2,004 6.0 12
1997 Barry Sanders 332 2,053 6.1 11
2010 Jamaal Charles 230 1,467 6.4 5
2012 Adrian Peterson 348 2,097 6.0 12
2012 C.J. Spiller 207 1,244 6.0 6

A couple notes on the list:

– I’m really interested to see how many carries Peterson is allotted this season, especially if Christian Ponder continues to slide into Mark Sanchez territory (thinking…), wait is he already there? It’s another way of saying I believe there is no chance the Vikings return to the playoffs this season.

– One last note on Peterson, how many more times will we see a running back with 325+ carries in a season? It won’t be very many. Thanks again for a wonderful 2012 AD, we won’t see a season like that for a LONG time.

– If you’re wondering how many yards Charles would have had if he had the same amount of attempts as Peterson, wonder no more. Multiplying Charles’ ridiculous 6.4 YPA by the 118 carry difference between he and Peterson equals 2,222 yards, which is 117 yards more than the single season rushing record held by Erik Dickerson.


Anyways, back to Spiller. Notice the amount of attempts Sanders, The Juice and AD had. Peterson’s season, in terms of carries, was a throwback to those of a forgotten past. Unless you possess a once in a generation body and work ethic, a running back just isn’t going to hold up with the current speed and power of defensive players (let the barrage of Arian Foster breakdown columns continue!). The combination of the rise of the running back by committee and the continuing evolution of the passing game has led us fantasy players to a land of workhorse (RB) despair.

It’s for those reasons that CJ Spiller has been overvalued heading into the 2013 fantasy football season. People who have drafted – if you have already had your draft I don’t feel bad for the person who took Percy Harvin in the fifth round – or plan on drafting Spiller in the middle of the first round are breaking a sacred rule:

When something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Let’s go back to the chart from earlier in this column and take a look at what Sanders and Simpson did in their following season.

1973 Simpson 335 2,004 6.0 12
1974 Simpson 270 1,125 4.2 3


1997 Sanders 335 2,053 6.1 11
1998 Sanders 343 1,491 4.3 4


Assessing Charles is a little different. He tore his ACL just two weeks into the 2011 season, but bounced back with a very quiet 1,509 yard rushing season (1,745 total yards from scrimmage).

2010 Charles 230 1,467 6.4 5
2012 Charles 285 1,509 5.3 5


There’s a theme with these three running backs, that thanks to Pro-football-reference.com, I discovered. All three had their worst season in terms of yards per attempt, after having their best. It’s going to be hard for some to resist the urge to point at Charles’ production last season and say, Spiller could replicate those numbers this season, thus validating a first round selection.

This brings me to my biggest gripe with taking Spiller so early; Charles is currently sixth on the all-time YPA list. There’s only one other running back in the top ten of that list, Bo Jackson. So either you’re expecting Spiller to replicate Jamaal Charles like production, which again no running back has ever done in the history of the league, or you expect the quarterback of the Bills to hand the ball off to him around 280 times. Only seven backs (Foster, Peterson, Morris, Martin, Lynch, Ridley and Charles) eclipsed that number last season. Only five backs (Jones-Drew, Turner, Rice, Lynch and Gore) accomplished the feat in 2011.

We don’t know very much about what new head coach Doug Marrone is going to do this season with the Bills offense, but he did say that he viewed Spiller as more than a situational player and Syracuse did run an up-tempo offense under Marrone, but it’s anyone’s guess as to how many plays the Bills will actually run this season.

Assuming that Spiller is going to become the featured back this season (remember when Fred Jackson was relevant?), let’s give him 250 carries while using the average of Sanders and Simpsons seasons following their 6.0+ YAP seasons (4.3). The 1,075 yards from that equation puts Spiller in 13th on the running back list (in terms of rushing yards) from last season. Those numbers are nice for a running back in the third round, but not one in the middle of the first round.

A player’s potential always skews a person’s thought . Yes there is a great unknown in Buffalo this season with Marrone coming in and bringing a potentially up-tempo offense to Western New York. Yes, Spiller did finally show more than flashes of what he could become. Yes, Fred Jackson is 32 years old and his time as a featured player has likely come and gone.

I understand why Spiller has a middle of the first round ADP, but I feel a lot better being the guy who has to listen to a Spiller owner say I told you so, after he has a good season, rather than the guy who takes Spiller in the first round and gets burned by a regression year. Instead of sipping on the Kool-Aid and selecting CJ Spiller with the fifth overall pick, I’ll gladly say,

I’ll have a LeSean McCoy please.

Follow me on Twitter @Scottdargis


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