Before the beginning of last year's college football season, I asked All About Sports: Who was the better ACC Running Back: C.J. Spiller or Jonathan Dwyer?
Spiller was the 2009 ACC Offensive Player of the Year, and Dwyer received the same honor in 2008. Both are two of the best running backs the ACC has had in recent years, but being a great collegiate running back doesn't always translate into being a great NFL back.
With Spiller and Dwyer entering this year's NFL draft, I want to ask: Who will be the better NFL back?
At first glance, the 6'0'', 235-pound Dwyer looks like immediately the better pro prospect. Dwyer is strong enough to run inside, but he was fast enough to outrun most secondaries in college.
The word is, he's lost 15 to 20 pounds in preparation for the NFL combine, so he may be coming in at closer to 220 pounds.
He looks like an every-down back, but there are questions about his pass-catching and pass-blocking abilities: two skills that weren't really required in Paul Johnson's triple- option offense.
While Dwyer didn't catch a lot passes at Georgia Tech, I believe he's very capable in that department. In 2008, he averaged 26.1 yards per catch, including a 79-yard TD catch.
When it comes to pass blocking, you can't tell me that skill can't be taught.
If there's a knock on Dwyer, it could be his work ethic. There were whispers that Dwyer's weight gain last year was due to not giving—ahem—his best in workouts. Dwyer has the all the raw ability in the world, and his apparent commitment to losing weight before the combine answers any questions NFL teams should have about his work ethic.
Dwyer is projected as a late first-rounder, and he has the speed and power to be a great NFL back. If he can pick up the nuances of pass blocking and blitz pickup, he could be a late first-round steal. If I remember correctly, Emmitt Smith was a late first- round pick.
What about Spiller?
Chris Johnson's 2,000-yard rushing season last year may be the best thing that ever happened to Spiller. Most draft analysts compare Spiller quite favorably to Johnson in terms of size, speed, and running style. At 5'11" and 195 pounds, Spiller is not considered to be the every-down back the way Dwyer is, but judging by Johnson's 2009 season, one shouldn't be so quick to dismiss such a thing.
What I especially like about Spiller is his versatility. He can return kickoffs and punts, catch passes out of the backfield or at wideout, and of course, he can play running back.
Spiller probably was the most explosive player in college football last year. He was capable of scoring from anywhere on the field.
With his size, Spiller will never be a goal-line back, but I envision him lining up anywhere on the field and having a very productive career.
Do you know which other running was similar in size to Spiller besides Johnson? Reach back in your memory banks for Tony Dorsett of the Dallas Cowboys. He rushed for more than 12,000 yards in his NFL career. He was 5'11" and about 190 to 195 pounds.
Spiller is projected as a middle to late first-rounder.