Now that head coach Chan Gailey has confirmed that C.J. Spiller will start Week 1 against the Dolphins this Sunday, everyone from beat writers to fantasy football owners are beside themselves thinking about the rookie’s potential.
And why wouldn’t they? Spiller is a true playmaker as both a runner and a pass-catcher and will also have the opportunity to make an impact on special teams as a returner. He has breakaway speed, soft hands and tremendous athleticism.
That said, I caution not too expect too much out of him too soon. For starters, he’s still only a rookie and he’s playing behind a highly inexperienced offensive line. He also has a history of injury problems and despite all of his athletic ability, some scouts don’t believe he has what it takes to be a featured back at the NFL level (which is why Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch will still eat into his touches when they’re healthy).
Buffalo fans are going to love watching this kid play and all young players with Spiller’s talent are good for the NFL. But even if he goes off for 200 total yards of offense on Sunday, it’s probably important to keep the expectations tempered. He’s a great young prospect and just turned in an impressive preseason but exercise caution.
Fantasy-wise, Spiller has a chance to finish in the Top 15, but a few things have to happen: 1) He needs to get decent QB play so that teams can’t load up the box against him, 2) the coaching staff needs to ratchet back Fred Jackson’s workload, and 3) the offensive line has to improve. I’m optimistic about Spiller’s chances, but Jackson is a real threat to his touches and since the rookie is a smallish back, they’ll likely want to keep him fresh by limiting his workload. I see him as a flex/bye week RB3 type with considerable upside and downside.