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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Feuding Fours: C.J. Spiller and the Bills

This is a series I am beginning called "The Feuding Fours" in which I take an NFL team, pick a debatable topic, present four arguments for either side of the argument and finish with my conclusion.
Feel free to comment on any of the arguments as well as leave updates as the topics progress.
This article can also be found on Bleacher Report as a slideshow

The first Feuding Four is about whether the Bills made a smart move drafting C.J. Spiller with the 9th overall pick this year.
Spiller was an incredible talent at Clemson, known for his explosive ability and big-play tendencies.  However, some people believe the Bills could have drafted a player to fill more pressing needs.  
Good Move: The Bills' Offense

In 2009, the Bills ranked 28th in the NFL in scoring, one of the two most important statistics in football (in addition to points allowed).

The Bills desperately need help on the offensive side of the ball, and they got that by drafting the best available offensive player available, C.J. Spiller.  

The Bills were just an average team on the ground last year, ranking 16th in rushing yards with 1,867 yards.  However, the Bills only scored 6 touchdowns on the ground, the 3rd lowest number in the league.
Good Move: It's C.J. Spiller

During Spiller's first three years at Clemson he split carries with RB James Davis who is now with the Cleveland Browns.  Spiller still managed to run for 2,335 yards on just 390 carries, a 5.99 yards per carry average.  In addition, Spiller caught 87 balls for 917 yards, averaging 10.54 yards per catch.  

In 2009 Spiller was the feature back for Clemson, proving he can carry a bigger load, rushing 216 times for 1,212 yards and 12 touchdowns.  In addition, he caught 36 passes for 503 yards and four more touchdowns.

As you can see, C.J. Spiller is an explosive, versatile back that can immediately help any offense in the NFL.  

Oh, did I forget to mention he is a decent kick and punt returner, as well?

Good Move: Explosive Return Man

C.J. Spiller possesses skills that every NFL scout and general manager love to see.  He can run the ball between and outside the tackles, catch the ball out of the backfield, and he is an electric return man. 

These numbers may blow your mind... In 2009, Spiller averaged 15 yards per punt return.  That is enough to make any opposing special team's coordinator gameplan for you.  He took one of his 14 punt returns to the house.  

His abilities as a kick returner are a whole 'nother story!  Last year, Spiller average 32.83 yards per kick return!! An explosive kick returner like that can change the momentum of a game at a time when his team needs it most, immediately following an opposing score.  

Oh, he also returned FOUR kickoffs for touchdowns, bringing his season touchdown total to 21.

Let's be honest, a guy with this type of big play ability is needed on every NFL roster...
Good Move: RB Injuries

Okay, this one may be a bit unfair.  

During the Bills' first preseason game, their two proven running backs, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch went down with injuries.  Jackson broke his hand and Lynch injured his ankle, and both are uncertain for week 1.

With these two out of practice for most of the rest of pre-season, drafting C.J. Spiller looks like a great move!  He will get the first team reps for three weeks or so, and be groomed as the starter in his rookie season.  

Let's assume the Bills took a defensive player (where they need help as well) instead of Spiller.  The Bills would be looking at three healthy backs, Joique Bell, Chad Simpson and Andre Anderson on their roster.  Joique Bell is an untested rookie from Wayne State, Simpson has run for 147 yards in cleanup time for the Colts in two years and Anderson is another rookie out of Tulane.

Good pick, Buffalo!
Bad Move: Bills Did Not Need a Running Back

Simply put, the Bills did not need a top-ten runningback.  They have both Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson on their roster.  

A year ago, Fred Jackson ran for over 1,000 yards with an average of 4.5 yards per carry in addition to 46 catches out of the backfield.  Sure, he only scored two touchdowns, but there was not much talent around him to get the ball into the redzone.

Marshawn Lynch has twice run for 1,000 yards, in 2007 and 2008.  Last year he was a secondary option to Fred Jackson, getting just under 10 carries per game but still running for 450 yards.  

The Bills could have used help at almost every other position, including...
Bad Move: Need for Quarterback Help

Bills' starting QB Trent Edwards' career stats: 506-826, 5,498 yards, 24 touchdowns and 25 interceptions.

Backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has similar numbers with a lower completion percentage, less touchdowns and more interceptions.

The Bills desperately need a franchise quarterback to get things moving in the right direction.  A 1-1 touchdown-interception ratio won't cut it as a starter in the NFL.  Maybe they didn't see good value from a quarterback at the #9 spot in this year's draft, but I would have liked to see a move made by the Bills to improve at this position.
Bad Move: Need for Wide Receiver Help

Sure, Terrell Owens had an off-year by his lofty standards, but there is no denying the Bills lost a dangerous wide receiver by letting him go.  TO led the Bills last year with 55 catches and 829 yards.

To add to that, the Bills lost their third receiver, Josh Reed, who is now a San Diego Charger.  

Looking ahead to this season, Lee Evans is back where he has been for most of his career...facing double teams with little help from other wide receivers to absorb coverage.  The Bills are currently listing Steve Johnson as the other starting WR, who has twelve catches the past two years, and Roscoe Parrish as their third WR with three catches a year ago.

Again, the Bills may not have seen the right value here at WR in the draft, but I believe Dez Bryant has top-ten ability.  Sure, he may have been viewed as a reach here, considering he was taken 24th overall, but I think he has a bright future ahead of him and could have helped the Bills for years to come. 
Bad Move: Need for Offensive Line Help

There seems to be a common trend in the "Bad Move" section.  The Bills need help at every position besides running back.  That trend continues with the offensive line...

The Bills have ranked in the bottom eight in the NFL in points scored each of the last seven years.  I believe the offensive line is the most critical component of an offense.  They are involved and relied upon heavily in the passing and running game.

In the draft, OT Anthony Davis was taken two spots after the Bills by the 49ers and G Mike Iupati was taken 17th, again by the 49ers.  

Building a solid offensive line is crucial to building a franchise...certainly more crucial than drafting a third talented running back!

The Bills needed a lot of help this offseason, and seemingly their biggest improvement was at a spot that needed the least help.  

On the offensive side of the ball alone the Bills could have easily upgraded at QB, WR, TE and across the offensive line, but they chose to add another RB to their crowded backfield.

Prediction:  Spiller will play a big part for the Bills and early, due to his skill set and current injuries to Jackson and Lynch.  Spiller should make a case for Offensive Rookie of the Year, but the Bills will likely struggle to win more than four games.

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