All week, we’ll be giving a scouting preview of a different running back who are coming out in the upcoming NFL Draft who may or may not fit the zone blocking system. Today, we’ll focus on the elephant in the room: C.J. Spiller.
Just about every mock draft published so far has at one point or another had the Seahawks selecting C.J. Spiller at #14. Let’s take a look at who he is and what he can do.
Who is he?
Spiller is a four-year player at a Division I school (Clemson). That would mean a lot to the former GM Tim Ruskell, but we aren’t really sure how Carroll and Schneider view that aspect of a player; still, it’s safe to say it can’t possibly hurt his stock at all. Beyond that, Spiller is a gamebreaker with very good patience. He excels in the return game, and you generally can only do that when you have patience and vision.
He is not a prototypical #1 running back. He doesn’t want to take punishment and is weak between the tackles. His pass protection is suspect, and he’ll be asked to do that more in the NFL. He is a good kick returner, but nothing special on punt returns. Do you really want your first round running back to be returning kicks, anyway? The Hawks are desperate for some special teams help, but I am not sold that you want to rely on a first rounder for that purpose.
How does he fit the scheme?
Spiller appears to be a near-perfect fit for the zone blocking system that Bates and Gibbs will install (properly, this time). He has excellent vision and every scouting report I’ve seen points out that he quickly identifies his lanes and bursts on through them. He runs routes well and has soft hands which will continue to be important on the Seahawks offense. Again, he doesn’t excel in pass protection, which hurts his stock a bit.
Spiller is faster than Justin Forsett, but they aren’t a typical 1-2 punch. Forsett is tiny, but hits holes (and tacklers) hard, he runs hard, and doesn’t rely too much on dazzling footwork. Spiller is the opposite; he’s a bit bigger (5’11”, a hair under 200) but avoids contact and relies on his speed and elusiveness for everything. If they could switch bodies, you’d like the pairing more.
Spiller is an attractive pick for a lot of reasons: he’s a home run threat every time he touches the ball, he is incredibly fast, he can return kicks and punts if necessary, he fits the ZBS… However, Spiller requires a high pick on a position that both Bates and Gibbs believe can be filled efficiently with 4th or 5th rounders, no problem. Justin Forsett proves that point, to a degree. Given Bates’ recent comments, it seems unlikely that Spiller will be a target, but if he is, he should have an immediate impact.