Tim Hightower
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With Mark Ingram’s season coming to a disappointing end, the door opens for Tim Hightower and C.J. Spiller to get some extra work. C.J. Spiller will likely be the popular add, but could Hightower be an answer?
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It’s possible, but tread lightly.
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C.J. Spiller has been a major disappointment, only logging 31 carries for 108 yards for a sizzling 3.5 yards per carry. He has offset his lack of usage in the ground game with 29 receptions for 216 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His season high for carries is eight. Spiller only had one touch last week for zero yards and four in the past two for six yards.
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Meanwhile when Spiller had a season high of eight carries for 24 yards, Hightower toted the rock 11 times for 46 yards. Hightower, who has been MIA for several years could be that surprise factor in the fantasy football playoffs.
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If you have a roster spot available, I suggest picking up Hightower. I would not recommend playing him, however, until there is more clarity in the Saints’ backfield. Hightower has never been a dynamic back so temper your expectations.
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C.J. Spiller was one of the most overdrafted running backs in the league last year. Ryan Mathews and Jahvid Best seemed to draw more ire, but Spiller was taken higher in the draft and Mathews finished with 383 more total yards and six more touchdowns while Best finished with 602 more yards and five more scores.
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Spiller finished with just 283 rushing yards at 3.8 yards per carry, which isn’t nearly on par with his explosive speed. He played in 14 games as a rookie, yet finished with at least 50 total yards on just one occasion. For all the talk of his explosiveness, he had just one run and one reception over 20+ yards. To say his game didn’t translate at this level is an understatement of epic proportions.
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Two of his main issues were fumbles and pass protection. In just 74 attempts Spiller put the ball on the turf five times. Three of his fumbles were recovered by the defense. Failing to pick up the blitz and coughing up the ball are two of the quickest ways to a coach’s doghouse.
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Unfortunately for Spiller not having the OTAs costs him valuable time working on improving in those areas. You can work on ball control on your own, but it’s hard to simulate pass protection.
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Spiller has be compared to Jamaal Charles, but Charles was effective even when he wasn’t getting a lot of touches. In his rookie year he carried the ball just 67 times, which was actually seven fewer than Spiller. Yet he had 74 more yards thanks to a 5.3 yards per carry average. Charles had three more receptions, but 115 more yards. In basically the same amount of touches Charles outgained Spiller by 189 yards.
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Darren McFadden struggled early, but the signs were there. Even Reggie Bush, whose production has not nearly matched the hype, had been productive up until last year.
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Spiller should be significantly better in 2011. Not simply because the ball was set so low, but because he does have the talent. He’s worth a look as your RB4, particularly in PPR leagues. Don’t write him off just yet. You may be pleasantly surprised.
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The Bills cleared their logjam at running back by trading Marshawn Lynch to Seattle for draft picks. He should have no problem taking the lead role once he gets acclimated with Seattle’s system. Lynch, and those who have been holding onto him in hopes of a deal, are the biggest winner in this deal.
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Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are also winners as they should now share the load going forward. I expect Jackson to be the primary back with Spiller offering a change of pace.
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The biggest loser is Justin Forsett, who will be relegated to third-down duty.

I profiled C.J. Spiller and Arian Foster earlier this summer (click their names to read the articles), suggesting that both RBs would be solid RB3 or flex players. Both RBs had teammates succumb to injuries in recent days that cleared the path to additional carries. The question now is whether or not they have become legitimate RB2s.

 


I’ll start with Spiller, who had not one, but two teammates get hurt. Fred Jackson broke a bone in his hand, an injury that should cost him between 4-6 weeks. If the injury lingers to the high end of the estimated recovery time, Jackson would miss two weeks of the season. Marshawn Lynch suffered a sprained ankle, which could cost him 3-4 weeks, or right before the season opener. Spiller will get the rest of the preseason to take all the first team reps. Given the lofty expectations that come from a top ten pick, Spiller could take hold of the starting job and never let go. With his big play potential, Spiller becomes a legitimate RB2 in my eyes, with a legitimate shot at 1200 total yards.

 


Meanwhile Arian Foster’s job security was bolstered when rookie Ben Tate suffered a season-ending ankle injury of his own. Tate was expected to challenge, and possibly overtake Foster for the role of starting RB. Not only did he lose his primary competition, but Steve Slaton’s fumbling problem resurfaced. Nothing gets you in a coaches doghouse faster than putting the ball on the carpet. Slaton figures to have a significant role in the offense, especially in passing situations, but if the fumbles persist, Foster could get an even heavier workload. With such a potent passing attack, Foster should be able to turn in a productive season and join Spiller in the RB2 ranks.

 

Click here to see my updated RB rankings.

 

Images courtesy of Icon SMI


Image courtesy of Icon SMI

 

I think C.J. Spiller is so full of talent that it oozes out of his pores. The kid is going to be the real deal. I just think people should lower their expectations for him in his first year. In keeper leagues, by all means he should be flying off the draft boards, but in standard leagues, he’s going a bit early for my tastes.

 

According to Mock Draft Central, Spiller has an ADP of 59, 27th among running backs. I have him a few slots down on the RB rankings (click to see my 2010 RB rankings), but there are players going after Spiller that I would absolutely prefer over the rookie.

 

For example, proven RBs like Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown, and Marion Barber, and Clinton Portis are higher on my list. Spiller is also going before Jason Witten, Hines Ward, Tony Gonzalez, Brent Celek, among others.

 

So why would I wait on drafting Spiller so early? For starters he’s in a terrible offense. Buffalo ranked 28th in points last year with a mere 16.1 per game. They were 30th in passing yards per game at 157.2. The Bills ranked 16th with 116.7 rushing yards per game, and therein lies the problem.

 

The Bills weren’t hurting at RB when they drafted Spiller. Sure, they’ve had it up to their ears with Marshawn Lynch, but Fred Jackson quietly had a solid season. He had 1433 total yards (1062 rushing, 371 receiving) and 4 TDs (2 rushing, 2 receiving). Plus, the Bills have been unable to find a partner in a Marshawn Lynch trade, meaning they have three capable running backs.

 

Like I said, I love Spiller in keeper leagues, but I would want him as an RB3 or a flex player. I much rather make sure I had quality starters at QB, RB, WR, and possible TE (depending on who’s available) before I take part of a RBBC at best, or a three-headed monster at worst, for one of the most anemic offenses in the league.

 

Prediction:  950 total yards (700 rushing, 240 receiving), 6 TDs (4 rush, 2 rec)

 

What do you expect from C.J. Spiller?

 

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The Bills, at least at the moment, have three running backs capable of carrying the load. Marshawn Lynch is the odd-man-out, who will either be traded or have to wait for an injury to get meaningful carries. Outside of RB, the Bills offer little to fantasy owners.

 

Fantasy Playoffs Schedule:  Slightly Unfavorable
The Bills open the playoffs with a bang facing Cleveland. C.J. Spiller will likely have assumed the lion’s share of the load by then so he could get you off to a hot start on the way to the title. Of course they face Miami and New England in the subsequent weeks so temper your expectations.

 

Five Star Fantasy Options
None

 

Four Star Fantasy Options
None

 

Three Star Fantasy Options
Fred Jackson – Jackson is a versatile RB that can produce even in a time share. He is particularly effective in PPR leagues. He should be more valuable early on, and could give way to Spiller as the season goes along.

 

C.J. Spiller – Spiller could take some time to get acclimated to the NFL, especially if there are any holdups in his contract negotiations. Spiller has big play ability and could contribute right away.

 

Two Star Fantasy Options
Marshawn Lynch – You can’t use him until he gets traded or a defined role, but he is certainly worth drafting and holding on to in deeper leagues. Despite all of his off-the-field transgressions, he can run the football.

 

Lee Evans – Evans has ability, it’s just a matter of who can get him the football on a consistent basis. He scored 7 TDs last year, but only topped 50 yards three times.

 

One Star Fantasy Options
Trent Edwards – Assuming he holds off Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm Edwards should at least be on your radar as a starting NFL QB. That said, the ceiling is quite low for Edwards.

 

James Hardy – The #2 WR on a team like Buffalo isn’t a glory position, but given his size (6’5″, 220) he may be worth a flier late in drafts.

 

Bills Defense/Special Teams
Playing the Patriots, Jets, and Dolphins twice is tough, but they also take on the Packers, Ravens, Bengals, Steelers, and Vikings. Two home games against Chicago and Detroit in Weeks 9 and 10 along with the playoff match-up against Cleveland in Week 14 appear to be the only time you can plug their defense in.

 

Click here for additional 2010 NFL Team Previews.

Now that we’ve had time to digest the 2010 NFL Draft, it’s time to start thinking of the incoming class in terms of fantasy value. I’ll start by ranking the rookie running backs.


1. Ryan Matthews, San Diego Chargers

Matthews wasn’t the first RB to come off the board, but he found the best home. Norv Turne has already stated that he wants to get Matthews plenty of touches both on the ground and through the air. He’s the feature back in a high-powered offense. He has the size that should get him the red zone carries. He has little competition as Darren Sproles is a change of pace back and third down specialist.


2. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills

He was the first RB selected and the #2 fantasy prospect for 2010. He is lightning quick with the ability to score any time he touches the ball. Speed backs like Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles excelled last year with similar skill sets. Competition in the form of Fred Jackson prevents Spiller for being the top rookie prospect. He could actually slide a notch if it looks like it’s going to be a 50-50 split with Jackson.


3. Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions

Best should get plenty of opportunities with the Lions as Kevin Smith recovers from his ACL injury. Best has injury concerns of his own, but possesses a great deal of talent. The Lions have done an outstanding job rebuilding their team. While they aren’t likely to be playoff contenders, they should be more competitive in 2010 meaning a more balanced offensive attack. Best stands to receive the lion’s share (pun intended) of the carries.


4. Ben Tate, Houston Texans

The Texans would have loved to land Matthews, but Tate is a great consolation prize. Not only do he have great speed and size, but he has experience with zone blocking schemes which the Texans use.


5. Toby Gerhart, Minnesota Vikings

I am convinced that the Vikings will rely on the run more in 2010. Adrian Peterson won’t be the only Viking RB to have fantasy relevance. With Chester Taylor in Chicago, Gerhart has an excellent chance of filling his role. If Adrian Peterson’s fumbling woes continue, Gerhart could steal even more carries.

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