Tuesday, 16 February 2010

POTD: CJ Spiller, RB, Clemson


By Kip Earlywine

Height: 5'11"
Weight: 195 lbs.
Unofficial 40: 4.34



Positives:

  • Very Fast
  • Great moves, can start/stop and change directions especially well
  • Above average running instincts
  • 2009 was not a fluke, he produced in '08, '07, and '06
  • Plays hurt... plays well hurt
  • Dangerous kick returner
  • Very good outside runner
  • Solid Burst
  • Seems like a leader and has no character issues
  • Career 1 TD per ~20 carries, most of them big plays
  • Reminds me of Reggie Bush as a receiver (that's a huge compliment)

Negatives:

  • Not much untapped potential, size looks maxed out
  • Size/durability probably means he'll continue to be a 150-200 carry RB
  • Not a particularly good inside runner or goal line RB
  • Not especially powerful
  • Supposedly (I've read) is mediocre as a blocker

Sound Bites:
"Spiller is the most electrifying player in college football today."

-Todd McShay

My thoughts:

As always, the POTD series is an incomplete analysis that serves more as a preview than a final word. Spiller is the first RB I've done in this exercise, and I have to say that RB might be the most difficult position to evaluate simply from highlights. Even good sites like prodraftparty show very little pass protection, and we don't see runs where the back missed a hole and settled for 1 yard and a cloud of dust. If it looks like the Seahawks get serious about Spiller, I'll have to get some real game tape of him in a couple months to give a much more accurate opinion.

Anyway, Spiller is an exciting player. Clemson is not a particularly good team, but they were at times a top 25 ranked one during this last season. I firmly believe that without Spiller, they never would have been. Its not very often you see a RB that is the team by himself (like Jake Locker is for UW), and for Spiller to have that kind of impact when averaging only 14.5 carries a game, is ridiculous. He might not carry the ball much, but he chipped in 2.3 catches a game and also returns kickoffs extremely well.

My big concern for Spiller is that like Reggie Bush, he's more of a "kick it outside" runner, and the zone scheme really emphasizes inside running (man does too, just a little less). As an inside runner, Spiller is (edit- reworded) not nearly as potent. And since Seattle's tackles suck and Carlson is a mediocre blocker, I don't see a lot of promise for designed outside rushes (that was an area Seattle really sucked at last year). Bush is a very common comparison to Spiller, and Bush averaged under 4 ypc every year until the Saints made a Superbowl run. Obviously, the Seahawks are very far away from having a Superbowl contending team. Spiller is awesome, and he gives the Seahawks something they badly need as a big play runner and KR, but if the Hawks draft him and he's a dud for us, it wouldn't completely shock me. I don't want to sound too negative though- Spiller is easily the best RB in the draft and I'd probably take him over any RB in last year's draft as well.

Assuming that the Seahawks manage to get the most out of Spiller and he's every bit as dominant in the pros as he was in college, he'd still be seeing less than 20 total touches a game, and how much do you pay for that? Is <20 touches a game worth $8-9 million per year? Probably not. However, at #14, his contract would be much more reasonable, somewhere around $3 million per.

Alex Gibbs turned Davis, Anderson, and Gary into huge stars, and the highest draft pick of the bunch was a 4th rounder. With what looks to be a decently deep RB class, will Seattle invest a big high pick for a RB? Or will they trust Gibbs track record and get a bargain RB later on while spending that pick to grab a WR, DT, or OL instead of Spiller?

27 comments:

CLanterman said...

There's not much to add to that. I think the two biggest positives to drafting Spiller from a Seahawks' perspective is that we don't have a good kick returner and we don't have that threat on our team that makes defenses worry about a 60 yard run/catch. But like you said, with Gibbs, Spiller, like Anthony Davis doesn't really fit our team.

Anonymous said...

One thing that gets overlooked regarding draft position is how talent is viewed. What I mean is traditional vs scheme specific talent. Guys that don't fit the traditional mold of a player, often drop.

As far as Spiller, I like him in a lot of areas -Speed, toughness and leadership. But for reasons you've already pointed out, he's probably a situational back and return man.

The only way I want my 1st rounder returning kicks is if he's so limited I have to use him there (Ted Ginn or Nate Burleson's 1st Hawk year). Otherwise, I want a 1st round pick to be a full time starter and anything top 10 needs to hopefully pan out to be a Pro Bowler at some point. BTW -I'm not saying Spiller won't be a PB.

Anonymous said...

Can you do a POTD on Toby Gerhart? He looks like a really intriguing in between the tackles runner. He also looks to have adequate speed and an obvious nose for the endzone. Thanks!

Mr. Chriss said...

Well... at around 3 mil a year if we can get him at 14, you're getting someone who can return punts, kicks, is an upgrade at running back, and can be used very effectively on screens and checkdowns... I mean - I don't see where people don't see the value.

Brendan said...

no question Spiller has great value especially if his hands are as good as bush's. However, his skills would unfortunately be wasted on a team as talented as Seattle's is. Spiller is the type of guy that could really get a team over the edge in a two back system. He is a great threat but he is not going to come in and turn-around our franchise and in the process of trying may become too beat up. Get the skill people last, bring the thumper's in first.

Brendan said...

By thumper's I don't mean a running back - I mean non-"skill" positions

Anonymous said...

I know this post is not about Gerhardt, but people should check this out. At 3:14 in this clip of Gerhart highlights, shows his 2009 game vs. USC. This shows two things, how successful Gerhart was against a stout USC defense with our own defensive minded Carrol in charge, and the other thing is how bad Taylor Mays actually is in run support.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXyTCJ2yTP8

CLanterman said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing that video link. I'd prefer Joe McKnight, but Gerhart certainly is a best. He's big, he's surprisingly fast, he has great vision, he's impossible to knock down, he has great balance in general, and he knows how to make people miss. I definitely would not mind spending a 3rd or 4th rounder on him.

Kip Earlywine said...

BTW- I definitely plan on making a Gerhart post, but he's about 15 names down on the list. So it could be a little while. I do look forward to it as Gerhart potentially fits a short yardage need and has an outside shot at making the 4th round.

Just from what others have told me, Gerhart is a very 1 dimensional back (think TJ Duckett). If that's true, I definitely wouldn't spend #40 on him, even if his tape is mind-blowing.

Anonymous said...

Have you heard anything about Charles Scott out of LSU? I heard he might be pretty effective in a zone scheme and will probably be available in the 4th or 5th round.

Anonymous said...

I'm on board with Seattle drafting a running back. I love Forsett but I think Seattle needs someone special at the position and they have to find an explosive option on offense this year. Instead of drafting Spiller at 14 why not get a player with an almost identical skillset who avg. 8+ yards per carry at 40? Just seems like better value to me. Am I way off base here? Also thought it was interesting what Mcshay said about Anthony Dixon and how is game fits a zone blocking scheme to a tee.

Kyle Rota said...

I have a few quibbles with a couple of your points, Kip.

IMO, when Spiller got knicked up (2 of the 4 or 5 games I've done on him he picked up a minor injury late) he was severely limited. Now, he gets some points for toughing it out, clearly he isn't afraid to play with pain (in fact, toughness/leadership are two areas where I think Spiller excels). However, he was much slower and since speed is the main thing Spiller brings to the table as a runner, his effectiveness plummeted. It didn't help that he was also stepping out of bounds rather than extending the play, but I'm willing to cut some slack since he was playing hurt.

I'd also argue that he's not even a good inside runner. I'm not sure what he offers inside, other than the ability to run fast when there is a hole. He's not terribly good changing directions, obviously isn't going to blow up tacklers and (though debatable) I don't think he'll break arm tackles at the NFL level like he did in college. Maybe if he had better balance. But I don't really see Spiller offering anything as an inside runner that we can't get elsewhere. He's willing and fast, but that's really it. And he doesn't use his speed inside (only turns on the jets when he has green in front of him).

I've heard, from a source more experienced than I, that Spiller can get to the 210 range. Of course, that same source later admitted such claims are usually unreliable and that the NFL isn't terribly good at predicting who will and will not add weight. I tend to agree with you, his body certainly looks maxed out (which suggests he is a very hard worker, as Spiller is downright ripped. Unfortunately, RBs tend to be more bulky than ripped because of all the pounding). Who knows.

That said, I think he's a pretty effective blocker, especially for a smaller back. He's not perfect, and he's not as good as Knowshon Moreno last year, but few are. He's better than most guys coming out.

HawkCity said...

Look Clemson's O-line was about as good as the hawks and this kid flat out produced. This is a good write up Kip but let me ask you this. Do you want a RB who can run the ball 20 plus carries a game, or take a chance on a guy like Spiller at 14 who could be very effective with 14 carries or less and post over 100 yards and 1 or more td's a game Also remember we have Forsett so he really would only need to carrie 8-14 times. Also I would like to point this out when Chris Johnson came out he was not viewed as an every down back and as we saw this year he could, so I guess what i'm saying is don't count this kid out as an every down back. A more fair comparison of Spiller would be between Bush and Johnson with me leaning more towards Johnson.

Anonymous said...

A lot of Johnson's success is actually up the middle, both in college and in the NFL. He has such great north/south speed and quick cuts which makes him so dangerous in between the tackles. He is obviously great at outsides runs as well but his ability to turn up field as quickly as he does is what gets him all his yards. This year he has also proven to effectively break tackles around the line of scrimmage.

G'd Up said...

I HATE to throw the Chris Johnson comparison out there because it's so overplayed, but from a height/weight perspective they are pretty similar. Not sure how similarly they are built/carry that weight though.

I'd quibble with two other points:
1) that we should be wary about Spiller because he excels most running outside, which was a weakness for the 09 Hawks. Both portions of the statement are true, but don't we expect/hope/dream that many facets of the blocking scheme will improve in 2010, including on running plays to the edge?

2) That Spiller is an ineffective inside runner. Admittedly, I've been looking at clips packages to so that's a non scientific sample, but given that limitation, I see a guy who on inside runs will look for a way to get outside if it's there. That can lead to trouble if a RB is always trying to bounce outside when it isn't there, but I see some one-cut potential in CJ

That said, I'm trying to not to fall in love with any one player. Home run threats are always "sexiest", just like the girl at the end of the bar who may or may not be more trouble than she's worth.

Anonymous said...

G- The spread zone allow flow to the sideline and creates opportunities for cutback lanes. One cut and go. You may be confusing this with the standard toss sweep type play.

Good comment Kyle.

Kip Earlywine said...

Injuries effect RBs so much, that I'm extra impressed when they have big games playing hurt. I don't think I'll soon forget what a horrible mess Alexander became once he finally started suffering some injuries. Spiller left the 1st game with a hamstring injury and had only 4 carries, but had over 150 KR yards and a TD.

In Spiller's final three games, he had some injury problems and it held him back. However, he more than made up for it with his epic performance against then #10 GT, gaining 233 yards (11.7 ypc) and scoring repeatedly, doing so without his top gear. To even be capable of such a performance when playing at 80% against a quality opponent is pretty amazing.

As far as Spiller's inside running, yeah it probably does suck. I noticed very few of Spiller's highlights came up the middle.

G'd Up- I don't see any reason why our outside rushing game would improve. In the first place, ZBS is built around running between the tackles. And secondly, our tackle situation is a royal mess, that probably won't be fixed in one offseason.

Anonymous said...

My post earlier should of had Jahvid best's name in it. If he grades out similar to Spiller wouldn't using the 40th pick on him make more sense than using the 14th on Spiller?

Also great info as usual from you guys. Keep up the good work!

G'd Up said...

Kip - our tackle situation in 2009 was a royal mess. I'm hoping we can downgrade that to colossal mess.

Mr. Chriss said...

Regarding Spiller playing and producing while injured...

Spiller was playing with turf toe since week 1.

Anonymous said...

Check out this article. Do you guys think our 40th pick is worthy of Cromartie?

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=4920302

Anonymous said...

I keep coming back to value. At #6, we should be focused on QB, OT, CB and pass-rushing D-lineman. For me that means Clausen, Okung/Davis, Haden/Berry or Suh/McCoy/Morgan. Realistically, Haden, Berry or Morgan, since I don't think the others will be available, or in the case of the tackles don't really fit the ZBS that well. No way should it be Spiller. At 14, maybe, although I'd argue the difference between Spiller and RB's who should be there well past 40 is much smaller than the difference between Price and other DT's who will still be there at 40. Unless McCoy or Clausen (I don't love the guy, but you can't argue with his numbers behind a terrible Irish O-line)falls to us, my money would be on Haden or Berry at 6 and Morgan or Price at 14. Perfect world we trade down from 14 and 40 and still get Price, Nate Allen and a couple of 3rd round picks to use on McKnight and Jordan Shipley. All 5 not only make the team but either start or contribute greatly. I know everyone is all about the O-line, but with Gibbs I could definitely see us waiting to the mid rounds for guys like Saffold, Capers and Calloway.

Anonymous said...

I feel that after the combine, Charles Brown out of USC might not seem much of a reach at #14, and he definitely wont be available at #40. I see Brown as an extreme value, an all around solid left tackle, plus fits perfect with the zone blocking scheme. Seems like a no brainer at #14. It would be a plus to trade back a couple of spots to pick him up maybe at #20, but he wont last long after that.

G'd Up said...

One more thought (and just to clarify, I'm not of the "C.J. or bust camp", if there is such a thing). Kip, in the original post you ask

"Is <20 touches a game worth $8-9 million per year?"

To which I would say, it can be:

"Career 1 TD per ~20 carries, most of them big plays"

I'm assuming the above stat is carries, as you state, and not touches that woudl factor in kick/punt returns or receptions.

I would like him a lot at 14 (at 6 I think, not so much). But I think if you're talking purely in terms of value per carry, some one like Darren Sproles or Felix Jones is worth a lot more in 10-15 carries than someone like, say, Matt Forte or a power back.

Jon said...

We need this man. There's usually only one guy per draft that has this kind of freakish speed and evasiveness, if they want a playmaker(which is nonexistent on this roster) they better take Spiller over Bryant.
If the downside on Spiller is Reggie Bush, then the upside is Chris Johnson, LT or Warrick Dunn. That's a gamble I'll take every day!

Kip Earlywine said...

G,

The way I feel is this. I think Spiller is going to be Reggie Bush 2.0. They aren't exactly the same- Bush is probably a little better and Spiller will probably get more carries and less grabs, but they are very similar prospects.

I'm a big fan of Reggie Bush. His DYAR per touch last year was better than even Chris Johnson's. The only problem is, he had only 117 total touches (runs+catches).

So despite being really awesome when he does touch the ball, and despite being a meaningful part of a superbowl winning team, there is talk this offseason that Bush could be released by the Saints. Because as nice of a player as he is, paying a guy with so few reps $8+ million over the next two years is not a good investment of resources.

If we drafted Spiller at #6, we'd be in a similar situation. Even if Spiller works pretty well, his contract will be a burden, not an asset, to the team. To me, taking him at #6 is pretty much unthinkable.

At #14, his value is a lot better. However, if his inside running is as bad as Kyle or Matt McGuire from Walterfootball reports, I might stay away from him completely. For reasons already mentioned, good interior running skill is a huge requirement for a successfully revived running game.

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