By Kyle Rota
Name: CJ Spiller
Height: 5107 V
Weight: 196 V
40: 4.37 V
Athleticism: I wasn’t as impressed with Spiller’s athleticism as I would like to be, though it is still very good. He flashes superior athleticism, but too often he looks like he is running at 90% speed, which is very good but nowhere close to elite. He has better stop/start than change of direction and he does have elite speed when he sees a lot of space ahead of him. There are different ways to grade this (potential/actual), but I feel best grading it based on what I expect to see in the NFL. 7.0
Run Inside: Spiller is not a very good inside runner, and in the NFL he will need to improve in order to be effective. He has fantastic stop/start, allowing him to make some plays inside when defenses overpursue, but he is below average in every other way. He doesn’t have great vision inside, runs a little upright and without great balance, and lacks size. He’ll need to improve on those skills to earn a higher grade, but they are all things he could improve upon. 5.5
Run Outside: Spiller’s deficiencies running inside are countered with his effectiveness running outside. When he sees green ahead of him, he can get to his top gear pretty quickly and that top gear is very fast. He sets up his blockers better on the outside, he’s much shiftier outside, and he runs faster outside. 7.0
Run vision: 6.0 He has good vision outside the tackles, but he misses holes when running inside.
Tackle Breaking: 5.5 He’s not very big and doesn’t break many tackles when running inside. He is very shifty outside the tackles, though. Most runs are inside the tackles, so his grade here is weighted that way.
Receiving: 7.0 Looked very good as a receiver, showing the ability to run a limited selection of routes and make difficult catches.
Run After Catch: 6.5 When he gets to the outside, he is very shifty and he uses his athleticism well. Doesn’t have the power to break tackles, but has everything else.
Blocking: 6.0 This is a little harsh and I could certainly understand a higher grade. Spiller did not have any problems with blitzers, but against down linesmen he couldn’t overcome a lack of size. A good protector who can be left on the field without worrying his coach, but he doesn’t have the potential to be great here unless he unexpectedly adds a lot of weight.
Power: 6.0 While Spiller lacks the size to overpower tacklers, he has a very muscular build and does a decent job falling forward.
Elusiveness: 6.5 This grade is comprehensive, which hurts Spiller. He is not very shifty inside the tackles, but exceptionally shifty outside the tackles.
Effort: 6.5 I love his effort as a blocker, his willingness to do everything his team asks (return man, runner, and receiver). He conserves his energy, particularly as a runner, which means I can’t give him a 7.0 here.
Fumbles/Errors: 6.0 He had the ball stripped twice in the five games I did on Spiller, which is pretty high, but it doesn’t seem like a consistent problem. Threw two HB passes, one into triple coverage and the other to a wide open target for a TD.
Character: 6.5 According to everyone, Spiller is a great guy who is involved in the community. Plays through pain and has some leadership qualities. No problems here, should be a hard working guy who avoids the police blotter.
Overall: (This one will be long, even by my standards) Normally, by the 4th game I do on a RB I’m getting bored, because they have stopped showing me anything new. That was not the case with Spiller, who has so many games that seemed to conflict with eachother. The last game I did, the bowl game against Kentucky, showed a much more athletic Spiller than the other games. He also seemed to be a much better inside runner against Wake Forest and Florida State than in the other games. Etc. There could be any number of reasons for this discrepancy, but I feel the most likely is a combination of injury and adjustment to a starter’s role (conserving more energy, except in the bowl game where he could give everything he had without worrying about next week).
The problem is, that doesn’t sound good when projecting Spiller to the NFL. I think that Spiller should abandon his duties as a return man, not because such a role is unimportant but because those collisions tend to be more violent and all that running will sap his energy. He also doesn’t offer much as an inside runner. Ideally, Spiller is a back who catches maybe 5 passes a game, plays on 3rd down almost regardless of the playcall, and gets most of his carries on outside plays (with some inside runs to keep defenses honest). In that role, Spiller could be a very useful player. Of course, then we have to talk about injuries. I don’t include an individual “injuries” grade because I am not qualified to distinguish between a 6.0 and a 6.5 here, but I do consider it for the final grade. Spiller, when he is knicked up, becomes a much less effective athlete (particularly speed/elusiveness, and he loses his normal toughness). You draft Spiller because of his athleticism, so losing that is a huge problem. That will have to be considered by teams, since Spiller has had a history of minor injuries.
My belief (which is a general guideline open to exceptions, not binding rule) is that you only take a running back in the first round if he can run all the plays well, block effectively, and threaten as a receiver. Spiller’s struggles running inside mean that I wouldn’t take him before the beginning of the second round, and really I only saw one game (Kentucky) where I was wowed by what I saw from Spiller. Maybe he was hurt, maybe he was conserving energy – that’ll be the case in the NFL too, though, and should be considered by teams before deciding where they would take Spiller.
Computed Grade: 6.46
Final Grade: 6.4