The 2010 NFL Draft is set to begin in roughly 223 hours (that's nine days, seven hours for the mathematically lazy), and over the past several months, we've spent countless hours debating and discussing various prospects and several need areas in relation to the Buffalo Bills. We know which prospects are hot-button topics around here. We know at which positions the Bills are the most starved for talent. We've been over it all, and we'll further sharpen our arguments in those respective topics right up to and through draft day.
What we haven't done yet is talk about something a little out of the box. That means it's a fantastic time to bring up Clemson RB C.J. Spiller.
Spiller's not a name new to Bills fans, obviously, as he's been on the edge of our radar ever since it became public knowledge that he'd visit pre-draft with Buffalo's coaching staff. Spiller, a senior entrant that was simply one of the best players at any position in the nation in 2009, is widely considered the top running back available this year, if not the best offensive playmaker available. It's not a highly likely scenario, but the idea of Spiller suiting up in Buffalo does make a great deal of sense.
Players helping other players
One of the best attributes to Fred Jackson's game is the fact that he's capable of making other players around him better. In 2009, running behind a patchwork offensive line that featured multiple starting units and several career journeymen, Jackson ran for 4.5 yards per rush on 237 carries. He was able to do this despite little to no help from Marshawn Lynch (3.8 yards per carry) and a lifeless passing attack, aside from the line issues. Fred Jackson is a back that helps his line; Marshawn Lynch is a back that needs a line to help him. Buffalo could use a player like Jackson at quarterback - a player that's capable of making plays without perfect blocking, a la Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger.
Spiller is that type of player. A tremendous athlete capable of scoring whenever he touches the ball, Spiller's vision and balance will allow him to be productive no matter where he ends up as a rookie. He's a player that will produce despite the level of talent around him. Even if Buffalo addresses the line with further rookie reinforcements this season, there's no guarantee that the line will play well enough to help out the team's current talent, particularly early in the season. If the team wants to win right away, getting as many players that can help the line as possible would be a good idea.
The return game
A little-discussed topic in these parts is the fact that the Bills have a critical decision to make in their return department. No one's sure if Roscoe Parrish is a lock to make the final roster; if he doesn't, we'll need a new punt returner. Leodis McKelvin is returning from injury, and given last year's infamous kick return gone wrong, may not be a lock to re-assume those duties. It would be inadvisable to allow Jackson to resume his kick return duties considering the fact that he's in line to field the bulk of the rushing load next season.
Spiller is a dominant return specialist, and even if he were to be a big part of the team's plans offensively, he'd give the Bills another (extremely talented) option in the return game, perhaps allowing for a rotation of sorts. Even if he's only a part-time player as a rookie, Spiller has additional value to whichever team he ends up with as a return specialist, where he could be elite right out of the gate.
The Lynch situation
Adding to the intrigue of Spiller in Buffalo is the speculation and unconfirmed reports that Lynch is on the trade block, and seemingly on his way out of the organization. If Lynch goes, he'll likely be traded on draft weekend, and in that event, Jackson would be backed up by only recent street free agent signings Walter Mendenhall and Rodney Ferguson.
Gailey himself has mentioned his desire to add a scat-back type that would complement the team's current running backs, with an ability to make big plays, add speed and attack defenses to the outside. The Bills are widely expected to add a back with those capabilities at some point over draft weekend, and have been linked to Mississippi's Dexter McCluster.
If Lynch is moved, Buffalo's need at running back rises up the priority list, if only slightly. A Spiller selection would fill that need, fill Gailey's requirement for more speed and athleticism at the position, and provide the team with excellent value at No. 9 overall.
Now, calm down
Please be aware that I'm not advocating anything in this post. Buffalo's needs list is lengthy, and there are certain positions - I speak of LT here - that almost have to be addressed in the first round if they're going to be addressed in any significant fashion. Right now, there are five or six players that I'd rather see the team select in the first round based on need alone.
There's also the slight complication that Spiller is one of only a few dynamic playmakers available this year, and will be in extremely high demand because of that fact. There's a very good chance Spiller doesn't even make it to the Bills' first selection.
But I won't pretend to be disappointed if Spiller ends up in Buffalo. I'd be slightly concerned about the quarterback, tackle, nose tackle and pass rush positions, obviously, but Spiller would give the team excellent value not only in the drafting order, but in two units on the football field (offense and special teams). There's nothing wrong with adding a playmaker, either, particularly to a team that is so starved for energy. Spiller to Buffalo might not be ideal, but there are much, much worse decisions the team could make on draft day.
Admit it: the idea of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller splitting carries behind any offensive line is a formidable one.