C.J. Spiller's 2014 Fantasy Football Stock Makes Him an Unnecessary Gamble

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2014

Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller (28) plays in the first quarter of the NFL preseason football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Buffalo Bills on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Vincent Pugliese)
Vincent Pugliese/Associated Press

A fantasy football draft is all about risk-averse gambles, and there are none more dangerous than that of Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller at his current stock.

Sometimes elite talent simply cannot overcome poor coaching, and that is exactly what is happening in Buffalo at the moment as a 27-year-old potential star wastes away (yes, he does seem much younger than that).

Owners have been right to exercise caution, bestowing the former Clemson star with an average draft position of 3.11, making him the No. 17 back off the board in drafts. It is a befitting number, really, as he scored the 28th most points at the position last year.

Fred Jackson, who is still on the roster, came in at No. 10.

Optimism based on potential is always built into a player's ADP. Spiller is no different, even if it is a misguided effort at best.

Really, his career numbers to date do a wealth of talking on their own:


To his credit, Spiller was hobbled most of the season and fought through the pain to play. Count head coach Doug Marrone among those who are excited to see what he can do in 2014 if healthy, per CbsSports.com's Jamey Eisenberg:

Those injuries kept him back a little bit. He was in a tough position. He wasn't in a position where he wanted to take a couple of weeks off. He's not that type of kid. He wants to play. He would feel like he would let down the team. He'd fight and come back every week and play. He's a playmaker, and we want to get him to make more plays.

Spiller can overcome injuries. He can't do the same with poor coaching.

This is a franchise that has a curious amount of questions at the position. The front office attempted to trade up in the 2014 draft to take Ohio State's Carlos Hyde and has since seen trade rumors arise around Spiller himself.

A change of scenery would actually bump Spiller's stock in a major way. His total yards dropped to in the neighborhood of 1,100 last season after posting better than 1,700 the year before. Part of the reason was that Fred Jackson missed six games two years ago and played in all 16 last season.

It comes back to coaching, though. Just look at Spiller's preseason usage thus far.

Look at the splits from one exhibition, courtesy of Rotoworld's Adam Levitan:

As has been the case his entire career, Spiller either scores from distance or not at all. That is better than relying on touchdown-based fantasy production, but the fact remains he is mired in a committee approach of the worst kind.

The team around him sans other backs does not help. EJ Manuel is still a work in progress and ensures defenses will be focused on Spiller when he is actually in the lineup. The line itself is a hodgepodge of names.

While Spiller is barreling down the field between the tackles for no other reason than a lack of creativity, other owners around the same ADP or less are cashing in on great values with a similar risk that comes with much more upside.

Directly behind Spiller on the chart is New York's Rashad Jennings, who is about to get the lion's share of the work with the Giants. The same goes for Toby Gerhart in Jacksonville, a bit of an unknown, but talented enough to get most of the carries. As always, carries equal production in fantasy terms.

Further down the list is the proven Frank Gore, the emerging Ryan Mathews, Ray Rice and reception-happy Shane Vereen.

Bob Leverone/Associated Press

Owners get the idea.

Depth chart burial in tandem with improper usage breeds a fantasy wasteland. Spiller is an elite talent, a change-of-pace back with sure hands and track star speed, but until he lands on a team that uses him correctly—he has one year left on his current deal and will get paid on the market regardless of his 2014 production—there is little sense in nabbing him at current ADP with so many surer sources of production in the same area code.

Until something drastic changes, Spiller is one back whose upside is not worth the potential sunk costs.

All average draft positions courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com. All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues. Statistics courtesy of ESPN. 

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