Why C.J. Spiller Shouldn’t Be Drafted In The Top 15
No longer in the NFL can you get by with just one running back, which has led somewhat to the devaluing of running backs in the free agent market and in the draft. Yet for some reason there is a prevailing belief that C.J. Spiller will be a top 15, and possibly even a top 10 pick. What makes this even more surprising is Spiller, while an immense talent, doesn’t project to be a true ‘every down’ running back. I don’t know how any team can justify spending a top pick on a player who isn’t likely to help them on quite a few offensive plays, particularly given the recent reduction in value of the position. The simple answer is obvious and that is the “Chris Johnson effect”, everyone sees the impact the diminutive Johnson had on the the Titans and wants their own version of him.
While I’m an ardent proponent of looking to the past for inspiration, I believe just as strongly that it only works when you look at the entire picture and not just the high water marks. Chris Johnson is a great example of the value of running backs, especially speed backs. But if Johnson is the bench mark, then Reggie Bush has to be the cautionary tale. Reggie Bush by himself is a good player, who will have some great plays throughout the season. The problem is the Reggie Bush isn’t any old player, he was the 3rd overall pick in the 2006 draft and has been paid tens of millions of dollars. Bush has been a complete bust given his lack of ability as a running back. While he’s an excellent return man and receiver out of the back field or quick pitches, he is ineffective on a down to down basis. And regardless of whether he was picked 3rd, 13th or 30th, he has not lived up to that value. You don’t spend first round picks on return men/3rd down backs.
Last year is the perfect example of how running backs should be valued. The Denver Broncos who owned two first round picks and ended up with two second round picks after a bad trade, decided to fill their running back need with their top pick, 12th overall by drafting Knowshon Moreno. Now Moreno isn’t a perfect example to Spiller since he is considered more of an every down back, but he makes a pretty fair comparison. Moreno didn’t have the blazing speed of Spiller, but he wasn’t purely a between the tackles runner. He was noted for his quickness and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He was considered the primary running back weapon in the draft. While Moreno had a solid season with the Broncos, it wasn’t by any means a stellar campaign. The Broncos would have been bettered served by drafting LeSean McCoy in the 2nd round (40 picks later) and taking an elite defensive player like Brian Orakpo or Brian Cushing at the 11th spot. The Broncos of course compounded their problem by overdrafting Robert Ayers later in round 1 to fill their rush linebacker need. If the Broncos had drafted last season based on immediate talent/needs/positional value they would have had a fantastic draft, and one that could have very well made them a playoff team. Instead the Broncos placed a much higher value on getting this highly hyped offensive play maker with their top pick and it blew up in their face.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Spiller is a great player and the first or second best running back in the draft depending on your needs. And I do believe that he is an offensive weapon, given his speed and quickness, but I don’t feel he is so far separated from the pack that he warrants a high first round pick. I don’t think there is enough of a difference between Spiller and 2nd round talents like Javid Best or Dexter McCluster, or 3rd round prospect Joe McKnight. Spiller will and should be the first or second running back off the board, but if he is taken in the 15 or even 20 picks, that team will probably end up regretting the decision.