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NFL rookie watch: C.J. Spiller


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When Buffalo selected Clemson's C.J. Spiller with the No. 9 pick in April it surprised just about everyone; the Bills were already stacked at running back with Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, and there were plenty of other positions in need of repair. No matter, Buffalo saw something in the 5-foot-11, 196-pound lightning rod that was too good to pass up.

The team is taking its time in deciding how best to use the shifty back, but fantasy owners are getting impatient. Will Spiller eat into Jackson's 46 catches from a year ago? Can he push the disgruntled Lynch out of Buffalo? Will Buffalo move him to the slot, same as Kansas City has done to fellow rookie Dexter McCluster? Questions, questions, questions ...

Dissecting the depth chart: It's a muddy situation in Buffalo. Many believe Jackson will remain the team's primary back, with Spiller offering help as a situational rusher. If Lynch stays put, it's likely he and Jackson will split up the work on first and second down (although not equally). The team also signed Chad Simpson, who could help in the return game but will probably not earn many carries in an already crowded backfield.

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Just the stats: Spiller carried no fewer than 100 times in each of his four seasons at Clemson, including 216 carries as a senior. In each of those years he averaged better than 5.0 yards per carry, but his best production may have come in his freshman season (7.3 yards per carry and 10 touchdowns). Spiller caught 30 or more passes in each of his final three seasons in college, and posted a 104-yard receiving effort against Miami, Fla. in 2009. The best performance of his career was without question the '09 ACC title game loss to Georgia Tech, in which Spiller gained 233 yards on 20 carries and scored four touchdowns.

Rookie comparison from 2009:Shonn Greene

Spiller certainly does not have the same build as the Jets' bulky back, but he could post similar year one rushing totals (108 carries for 540 yards and five touchdowns). And like Greene, fantasy owners can expect Spiller's role to grow in Buffalo as the season wears on.

Interesting fact that won't help you: Spiller was one of the nation's top 10 recruits of '06, according to, and was viewed as the top prospect from the state of Florida.

What he's worth: Some analysts have projected Spiller to touch the ball as many as 15 times a game this fall. If true, Spiller deserves consideration as a No. 4 running back in traditional leagues. He has as much big-play ability as any other back in this class, and will probably help fantasy owners as a receiver as much as he will as a runner. Fantasy owners should remain grounded, however. Yes, Spiller is a dazzling prospect, but he will not be afforded the same opportunities as the league's other two first round backs (Ryan Mathews and Jahvid Best) due to the presence of Jackson and Lynch.

Mike Beacom is a contributing writer for