When the Buffalo Bills selected Clemson running back C.J. Spiller in the first round of April's NFL Draft, the imaginations of Bills fans and NFL analysts alike went wild. Blessed with an unusual amount of talent and versatility, folks predicted that Spiller would do everything for the Bills - run, catch, return punts and kicks, line up in the slot, and what the heck, maybe even run a little Wildcat.
Spiller still gets most of the attention when it comes to discussing Bills running backs in the passing game, but if head coach Chan Gailey is as prescient about his personnel as he's given credit for, he'll use veteran Fred Jackson as a receiver far more frequently than he uses his flashy rookie.
Jackson has been one of Buffalo's best and most consistent receiving threats since he first saw regular season action in 2007; that year, he first played in an October 28 win over the Jets, and in every game since (and including) that date, Jackson ranks second on the Bills in receptions (105, behind Lee Evans' 145), and third in yardage (878, behind Evans' 2,267 and the now-departed Josh Reed's 1,278).
Clearly, Jackson doesn't have the explosive talent Spiller has, but in order to give the rookie ample opportunities to showcase his skills, the Bills first need to be able to move the chains on a consistent basis. Jackson won't be a flashy receiver, but he's got great hands, is a polished route-runner, and is more than capable of playing out of the slot. Both of these players can play some receiver (as can Marshawn Lynch, for that matter), and the odds are great that both will see extended action in that role. Just don't expect Spiller's numbers to be better than Jackson's, because right now, Jackson remains the best receiving threat on the team at this position.