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Bills RB Spiller an early contender for Offensive ROY

It's been a long time since the Buffalo Bills had a jaw-dropping, game-changing talent on either side of the football field. There have been jaw-dropping plays made by some really good football players, but when was the last time the Bills had a player that an opponent truly feared? We might need to go back to the early '90s to legitimately discuss that topic.

That's why I'm so excited about rookie running back C.J. Spiller. I may not have liked Buffalo's draft strategy in late April, but it's hard not to be excited about a prospect as uniquely talented and productive as Spiller was at Clemson. Excluding special teams, where he's flat-out dominant as a return specialist, Spiller enters the NFL with 4,967 yards (at 6.8 yards per touch) and 43 touchdowns on his resume. He's immediately one of the fastest and most instinctive players in the league, and even with proven talent at running back, it shouldn't be long before Spiller becomes the focal point of Buffalo's offense.

I'm a firm believer that playmakers make plays regardless of circumstance. Chris Johnson has been dominant in Tennessee despite average-at-best quarterback play. LaDainian Tomlinson never had a good offensive line in front of him in San Diego, yet is a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Fame back. I'm not saying Spiller will be as good as those two players; I'm merely saying that Spiller has that type of potential, and if he's the player I and many others (including Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey) thinks he is, he'll produce despite the Bills' question marks at quarterback and along the line.

Spiller will have ample opportunity in Buffalo; combined with his talent, that makes him an early favorite for 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. In my mind, Spiller is fighting with five early contenders for that title.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers. The Fresno State product was drafted to replace the departed Tomlinson, but he'll have to steal carries from the diminutive Darren Sproles first. Mathews is an excellent, versatile runner that will help as a receiver as well, and though the Chargers will likely be something of a pass-happy team in 2010, Mathews should emerge as their feature back by year's end. He's not a game-breaker, but he's an excellent player, and should be in line for a lot of touches.

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals. The incoming tight end class is outstanding, and while I believe New England's Rob Gronkowski is the best overall player, it's Gresham that will see the most opportunity as a rookie. Cincinnati is the defending AFC North champion, which a lot of people are quick to forget, and with improvements from their passing attack could emerge as a darkhorse contender for the AFC crown in 2010. The team added Antonio Bryant to team with Chad Ochocinco, and third-round pick Jordan Shipley could help as a slot receiver. But I think Gresham, a former Oklahoma standout, is in line for a big season as a receiver, particularly in the red zone, where the Bengals' receiving corps lacks size. He's going to be a real difference-maker for them offensively, and his impact should be immediate.

Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys. There are only two obstacles standing in Bryant's path to an unusually strong season for a rookie wideout - his own attitude, and Miles Austin's status as Tony Romo's go-to guy. The prior shouldn't be an issue; not in his first pro season, at least. The second could be more of a problem, particularly between the 20s. There's just no way, however, that any other Cowboys receiver beats out Bryant for a starting job; Bryant is that good. He may not wow anyone with his reception total, but he should make a fair number of catches where it really counts - in the end zone.

Jahvid Best, RB, Lions. Spiller was the big dog in the "speed back" category leading up to April's festivities, but while Best may not be as instinctive nor as versatile, he's just as dynamic. Kevin Smith is a good football player, but Best is potentially elite, and by year's end, the first-round pick should be Detroit's feature back. Spiller has a slightly better chance at the ROY award, but not because of a monumental talent gap; Spiller will likely just have more opportunities as a rookie. Best, if he can stay healthy, should be an outstanding pro.

Tony Moeaki, TE, Chiefs. This third-round pick out of Iowa flew under the radar pre-draft thanks to an unusually strong draft class, particularly at his position, and he'll continue to fly under the radar for the next few months. Once the season starts, I think Moeaki is going to open a lot of eyes. The Chiefs don't have a lot going on at receiver, and they're still poor enough defensively where they'll be throwing quite a lot during games, playing catch-up. Moeaki's a good blocker, so he should be an immediate starter, but he's vastly underrated as a receiver. He'll be a tough matchup for the AFC West's linebackers, and I wouldn't be surprised if this guy leads all rookie tight ends in catches, yards and touchdowns. This was Scott Pioli's best value selection this year.

Anyone else that you'd like to add to the list, Rumblers? What do you think Spiller's chances are of winning this prestigious award?