Sunday, 6 December 2009

C.J. Spiller is needed in Seattle

I've just finished watching the Clemson vs Georgia Tech game from yesterday, where the Yellow Jackets ground out a 39-33 victory to win the ACC Championship. I have nothing against GT (but I do find the system they use completely unpleasant on the eye), but I was desperate for Clemson to win just for C.J. Spiller. Simply put - the guy was immense. Clearly hurting, Spiller was suffering terribly with a turf toe injury that's dogged him all year. It seemed like after each play he was limping back to the line of scrimmage or the sideline.

Quite the miracle then, that he managed to post a career high 233 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He was outstanding. People question his durability and yes it's a legitimate concern whenever you're thinking of taking a running back in round one. However - that was some gutsy performance. He never got out of third gear because of his injury, but even so he was out running everyone to break off big runs. He took the tough, hurtful yards - hitting the hole with purpose and making the most of everyone one of his twenty carries.

I truly believe he can be the focal point of a running game in the NFL. Yes - you keep someone on the roster who can spell him, that's what Clemson have done all year. But he can take most of the carries. The added bonus is you can leave him in there on any play call - his pass protection is above average and he runs exceptional routes with good hands.

The Seahawks simply don't have anyone on their roster with Spiller's game breaking ability. Team's will have to gameplan for his speed. They'll be cautious of giving him the ball on kick offs, surrendering field position. He can score six points every time he has the ball and right now Seattle does not score enough cheap points. The Seahawks offense is predictable, lacks any kind of spark and needs someone like C.J. Spiller.

He's too explosive to ignore, even at 50% health. Of his four TD's, two were short range hard runs to pound the ball over. The other two - bouncing out wide to break off 40 yard runs and take it all the way. He regularly found the edge or a crease. Put the ball in his hands, get him into space and it's over. In that sense he reminds me so much of Chris Johnson in Tennessee, a guy who you fancy to break off one big run a game. The two aren't identical prospects - Johnson is a bit bigger but Spiller perhaps is a little more savvy. However - they both share one trait which is elite speed. The Clemson runner's stock could explode if he runs a Johnson-esque time at the combine in the 4.2's.

Elsewhere, I was thankful for the opportunity to watch Derrick Morgan again and his performance confirmed my original opinion of him. He was consistently making plays in the backfield despite battling strict double teams throughout. Morgan didn't record a sack, but then Clemson didn't throw all that often. He did press the QB when he needed to, again showing that relentless style and always playing to the whistle. On one play he moved inside, explodes past the first blocker (left guard) escapes the left tackle in support and gets to the QB 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

He flashed quickness off the snap instantly putting blockers on the back foot and getting into the backfield. Morgan has the prototype size for a 4-3 defensive end and the size/speed combo which will make him a threat at the next level. I feel confident enough to keep him third overall on my prospect rankings for 2010 - he should be a top 10 pick.


Chris (Seattle) said...

Couldn't agree more Rob. C.J. Spiller is phenomenal yesterday, and the Seahawks need someone like that who can score from anywhere on the field. Injury problems don't concern me, cause they're too impossible to predict. You can't pass on an incredible talent because he seems "injury prone." A RB contantly takes shots, and is going to be susceptible to injury, but they all are. But they need this guy. Too many people overlook having a threat like him that the defense constantly has to worry about in the back of their mind. Getting the D to think even a little bit leads to hesitancy, false steps, etc. All of which opens the field just a little bit more for the offense as a whole to operate. Hope we can land him somehow in the draft next year.

PS - Don't know if you got to see any of the Big East title game between Pitt and Cincy, but Pitt's freshman RB Dion Lewis looks like he's going to be great. He is only 5'8", but consistently get's more out of runs than most could. Plus, his durability was impressive. He handled the ball 52 times in the game (including touching the ball on the first 16 plays of the game). I'd keep your eye on him the next couple of years.

1stHill said...

Rob, which NFL player is Derrick Morgan similar to?

Do you think think he could be like Giants DE Justin Tuck or Eagles DE Trent Cole?

Rob Staton said...

I think there's some aspects of Tuck in there, some Patrick Kerney. He can move inside, he's good against the run. He's also a relentless pass rusher with a great motor, has a good edge rush and repetoire.

I've just finished watching Texas vs Nebraska. Colt McCoy was truly awful - I've said it all year but I wouldn't draft him, not even in the later rounds. Haven't got a clue what Mel Kiper sees that I don't.

Patrick said...

Couldn't agree more. It was just an incredible performance and it may a believer out of me. I honestly hope Seattle is picking right around 8-15 so C.J. Spiller wouldn't be a reach (although I think he would be worth a pick at almost any spot).

And yes, Colt McCoy was absolutely awful. How he handled that last drive just makes me angry and I wouldn't touch him with a 49-and-a-half foot pole (Sorry for the Christmas quote lol)

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog for some time and I appreciate your insight very much. I have watched the players you have analyzed and your observations are profound. Keep up the good work. C.J. Spiller's body of work speaks for itself. He would be a serious addition to the Seahawk roster. The quandry is (and I sure would appreciate your feedback on this) if we take him (if he's still around) at our pick. The chance of him staying around until Denver's pick seems slim to none.
Thanks again. You do great work!

Rob Staton said...

Annonymous - firstly thank you for the kind words. Always appreciated.

I anticipate Spiller going earlier than most mocks are saying right now. Mainly because teams like speed and production - Spiller has both. If he runs as well as I anticipate at the combine, he could easily shoot up the draft boards. There's not a lot of difference in quality at picks 8-12 and picks 13-20, so Spiller really could go anywhere in that range.

The dilemma for Seattle would depend on who is left on the board. The quality in the 2010 class comes at defensive line. We've seen already in this 49ers game today that the Seahawks' pass rush is laughable. When Alex Smith is tearing you apart, you're in trouble. Manning, Romo, Warner - they've had a field day against Seattle this year.

However, they could all go early. A lot of people want investment at left tackle. I'm watching the Niners absolutely hammer that o-line, because they can stack the box and blitz freely and often. Why? Because there's no weapons. They don't respect the Seahawks WR's and RB's. They're daring Seattle to make plays. We're going to bring it, what you going to do?

I don't care who you are, that's a tough ask of your LT to keep the QB on his feet for pretty long. Swapping Locklear for Okung or Brown... what difference does it make?

However, if you have a game breaker on your team (or a couple)... teams will have to keep an eye on them. They'll be concerned... "we can't blitz too much or we'll get burned." Seattle has NOBODY with Spiller's speed and playmaking ability. We haven't got a cheap points scorer. The two work hand in hand for me - you need to get better at the o-line, but you also need to get guys on the field that force teams to game plan. Take the pressure off your o-line and they'll find life easier.

And hey, I'm not saying Spiller has to be top of the draft board. They need to consider him though and there are situations where he becomes a logical choice depending on a.) where Seattle pick and b.) who's left on the board.

Grant said...

I'm sorry but I have to disagree with this article...I don't care how good C.J. spiller is. A football game starts and ends in the trenches. Even if he were still there when our pick comes up I don't think we should take him. I understand what your saying about keeping the defense honest but I still disagree. This team needs offensive linemen they give running backs their names. They make the running game a threat. Not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your explanation Rob. Saying that a good O-line makes your offense good is tantamount to saying all a Pitcher needs is a good fastball to succeed.

It's all about balance. You need a good O-line, but it serves you no good if there are 8 guys in the box against 5. I'm not a math major but I would bet on the 8 succeeding significantly more than the 5.

Our O-line is in need of help, but if the assumption is that solves the problem than you are in for a rough couple years.

What helps a great running game? An effective passing game/threat. What helps a great passing attack? The ability to run the ball. A good O-line helps a good RB just like a good RB can help a good O-line. We need to find that balance.

The seahawks will remain a one dimensional team if they do not get playmakers on offense (and defense). I will be severely disappointed if 2 of the top 3 picks are not used on an O-lineman (personally I'd love to take OG Mike Iupati with our 2nd first rounder) and a top notch RB (preferably Spiller).

Our O-line is in drastic need of help, but in no way does drafting a top ten OT get us back in the playoffs. Keep up the good work Rob.

Michael said...

Love your work, could not disagree more with your assessment of Morgan against the run.

Perhaps you are blinded by love. GT has been run over in the run game, and teams do what they are doing to Curry in Seattle now, using his overpusuit against him.

He is sluggish in space, and is not stout. Oh well, he'll fit Seattle perfect in that case.

Rob Staton said...

Grant - I don't disagree that a good offensive line certainly helps a running back. But I disagree that its the lineman alone that makes the running game a threat. If nobody respects your skill players, they'll just flat out attack your offensive line. If you had put Russell Okung or Charles Brown at left tackle today instead of Sean Locklear - would things have been any better? I'd argue no. Would the Niners be able to attack as much knowing Spiller and his speed were stood in the backfield? Probably not. In the context of this draft, there could be a scenario when drafting C.J. Spiller would be a better option than an offensive lineman. After all, it's not a good class at LT. I'm not saying the Seahawks should put Spiller at the top of thier board, but they need players like Spiller on their roster. Rookie lineman won't fair any better than the current bunch if teams don't respect Seattle's weapons. The two go hand in hand. Hopefully during the 2010 draft and free agency they'll find a way to improve both areas of the offense.

Annonymous - I'd agree with everything you said. Spot on.

Michael - I'll throw on the Clemson vs Georgia Tech tape again later in the week and have a much more detailed look at Morgan. However, I have to confess I do rate him as a prospect - but I've always been prepared to change my mind if a number of faults could be found - I just haven't seen many yet personally.

Anonymous said...

I thin a strong argument can be made for picking the best DT or DE with our highest 1st round pick simply because it is unlikely that the top OT will be available; It is unlikely that the Bradford/Locker combo would be available out of the top ten and considering what Chris Johnson is doing for the Titans, I doubt C.J. Spiller would make it out of the top 10. Ruskell needs to win to save his job (probably,) so we will end up with the 13th or 14th pick. Could be a good position depending on how many Juniors come out this year. We can get an OL/QB or some combo of RB/OL/QB with our bottom 1st and 2nd round picks.

Mike Kelly

nightwulf said...

Hey guys,
Glad I found this site. It seems to be filled with people who actually understand the game of football. (at least I haven't read any comments about how Matt is the worst QB in the league, how we should trade for a stud LT, How Colt McCoy is the answer to all our prayers, etc...)
I have been hammering other blogs for most of the season (and last season) on how we need serious help on the O line. But I just don't see any true studs in this draft...We should be able to pick up a good LT (not a stud, but a good one, an improvement over Lock, who we can send back to RT where he belongs)with the pick we get from Denver, and I would REALLY like to pick up a LG with our second rounder. (Hudson or Iupati) If our new GM is smart, they'll get the best G they can find in FA, and the line will have the talent to be good (it'll take a bit for them to gel, though, at least a year before they're really good together, and that's only with Unger at C) This leaves us with our early 1st round pick...If Locker comes out this year, he may fall far enough that we could get him to start grooming, or perhaps Spiller will be available, or one of the good DL that abound this year. But I don't see anyone that would be a good value that early for the OL.

Rob Staton said...

Hi nightwulf - I would tend to agree. It's a thin class on the offensive line and I think that's why guys like Russell Okung are getting over rated. He's a low first rounder for me, but people keep saying top ten. I wouldn't take him that early.

Charles Brown intrigues me though. He's playing at 285lbs supposedly, but if he can add bulk and get to the combine and put on the kind of performance that Jason Smith did, he could shoot up the boards.

Looking at the remaining schedule I don't think seven wins is a stretch by any means, which puts Seattle in that 10-13 range. Denver's pick should be in the mid-late 20's. The second pick would be a good place to target the interior line if Iupati is as good as advertised (not seen him myself, but I know Kyle is a fan). We also wait to see if Rodney Hudson will declare too, someone I rate very highly. He could be a late first or early second round pick.

CiaranH said...

Hey Rob, long time listener first time caller. Really love the site, in a down year it's great to have a source of intelligent information for Hawks fans to discuss about next April. I agree wholeheartedly about Spiller, he'd change this offence and give us a threat that we can only dream about this year. I'm really hoping we can add a tackle through free agency, there are a few really good ones coming out. If we could snag an anchor for the line through FA, it'd give us the freedom to draft young, impact players. I'm interested though, if your GM and any of the trifecta of QB prospects (Locker, Bradford, Clausen) falls to you, do you take them or go with CJ? We could then take the likes of Jahvid Best with our second 1st.

CiaranH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

RB later rounds. Trade Tatupu for 2nd rd. We need to go 1a. ot/de/s 1b. de/ot/s 2a. s/cb 2b. cb/og/rb

Rob Staton said...

Hi Ciaran, great to hear from you and thanks for your comments.

I think in an ideal situation the Seahawks will find a way to add to their line through free agency. There are some big names who could be prospective free agents, but I expect they'll all almost certainly get tied to contracts. If any do slip through the net, the Seahawks will surely make sure their amongst the first in line to talk money.

With a dearth of talent at offensive tackle in the 2010 class, they'll have their hand forced a little in that sense. Many fans want to draft a long term replacement for Walter Jones but I think it's pretty obvious that won't be possible unless the Hawks' new GM is particularly fond of Russell Okung or Charles Brown (I'm not a big fan of Okung, I like Brown but he must get bigger - 285lbs isn't NFL LT weight).

Interesting question with regard to Spiller and the three QB's. I haven't had access to Washington games this year so I cannot offer an opinion on Locker. I think Sam Bradford has plenty of upside (accuracy, production, level headed character) but also a number of serious question marks (injuries, mechanics, durability, throwing on the run). Clausen I'm not particularly fond of - he doesn't have a great passing range and tends to throw almost exclusively to the outside on short/medium routes. He has a side arm throwing motion which is a big concern. I just don't think he's as good as some say - I don't think he's a top fifteen pick at all.

Personally, I'm not sure I'd be willing to put the future of the franchise in any of their hands with a very early pick (although admittedly I know little about Jake Locker, so I reserve passing judgement over him). Spiller is a safer option for sure in that he'll likely have some impact straight away - most first round running backs do. But eventually the Seahawks have to think long term at QB. If they firmly believe Bradford/Locker/whoever is worthy of being this team's QB for the next 10 years, then of course you would take them every time over CJ Spiller. However, one of the reasons why I'm even talking about taking Spiller, particularly in that 10-15 range, is the lack of legitimate options at the 'long term' positions of QB and LT. Clearly if you can find that franchise QB - you don't pass for a running back. But we have to look at all the options for Seattle, Spiller is certainly one if the top end D-liners are off the board.

nightwulf said...

Welcome to the blog. I hate to start you off here by dashing your hopes, but teams don't let good LT's go in FA. There is the rare instance where an LT is let go by one tham as a total failure in their system, and he catches on with another team and does well, but that's by far the exception, rather than the rule. Personally, (I know, you asked Rob, but I'm a pushy bugger:) ) Locker, definite yes, Bradford, not quite so high on, Clausen, a big "NO" (although I will admit, I may be prejudiced by the last time we took a golden domer over a U dub QB...Mirer over Brunell, and boy, was I ticked)

CiaranH said...

I think my only hope of a FA LT was the Saints' Bushrod. If he asks for too much money after one productive year, and Jamaal Brown comes back strong from injury, they might let him walk. I agree with both of you guys on Clausen, but am a bit higher on Bradford. Neither Bradford or Locker are guys you want to start right off the bat though, so in that regard Spiller would definitely give our offence more in the short-term, and possibly in the long term too. If we took CJ, would you guys cut Julius Jones?

Anonymous said...

Grant I get what you are saying about a line giving the running back his name. I agree in most cases but CJ Spiller has all of his yardage behind an aweful o-line for the past four years. He is an exception. if he played at Alabama or USC he would prob be the all time leader in every category right now and going to NY instead of coming in sixth in the joke of a heisman trophy.

Misfit said...

Spiller is certainly on my wish list of picks for Seattle. He is currently my #1-rated draft-eligible back and I think he is very comparable to Chris Johnson (CJ4.24). I'm not sure how his pass-protection is. My list would include Bradford, Suh, Spiller at the top. I love Spiller and he's exactly the explosive play-maker we could benefit from. However, should we draft more of a power back, Dwyer is the real deal. We hardly be 'settling' for him. Ryan Matthews is another name to keep an eye on.


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