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Why did Buffalo draft C.J. Spiller?

The Clemson running back can play, but the Bills have more pressing issues. Joe Fortenbaugh

Print This April 23, 2010, 10:31 AM EST
27 Comments

The Buffalo Bills wasted no time turning in their draft card Thursday night, selecting Clemson running back C.J. Spiller with the ninth pick approximately two minutes after the Oakland Raiders selected Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain.

Why?

Don’t get me wrong. Spiller is a dynamic, three-down playmaker who finished fourth in the ACC in rushing last season (1,271 yards) and fifth in touchdowns (12). He also caught 36 passes for 503 yards and four scores.

The great thing about the former Clemson Tiger is that he can come in and contribute right away. The problem is, the Bills had much bigger problems than the running back position entering Thursday's first round.

This is an organization that hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999 and hasn’t won a postseason game since 1995, when they defeated the Miami Dolphins 37-22 in the wildcard round.

This is a team that has gone 32-48 over the past five years and 66-94 over the last decade, with just one winning season (2004) since 2000.

Spiller may have been the best player on the Bills’ draft board last night when they went on the clock, but this is a team that desperately needs to upgrade their offensive line and defensive front seven.

Why not try to improve the rushing defense?

Buffalo has ranked 22nd or worse in rushing defense in each of the last five seasons, allowing more than 121.6 yards per game on the ground since 2005. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Bills have finished in the bottom five in rushing defense in four of the last five seasons.

Why not draft a pass rusher?

We all know you need to be able to get after the quarterback in this league if you want to win football games. Buffalo—who has won only 20 games over the past three seasons—has finished 18th or worse in sacks in each of the last three years. While ranking 18th in 2009 was an improvement, the Bills ranked 28th in 2008 and 29th in 2007.

How about bolstering the offensive line?

The Bills may not be getting after opposing quarterbacks, but rest assured, opposing pass rushers are getting after them.

Buffalo has ranked in the top ten in sacks allowed in four of the past five seasons. They put a cherry on that fudge sundae in 2009 when they gave up 46 sacks, the fourth-highest total in the NFL.

Ok, so you can’t protect your quarterback. How about getting him a viable wideout?

Terrell Owens is gone, leaving the Bills with Lee Evans, James Hardy, Roscoe Parrish and Chad Jackson to man the wide receiver position.

Those four wideouts combined for 48 receptions and seven touchdowns in 2009. All seven scores and 44 of the 48 catches were produced by the 29-year-old Evans.

Top put that in perspective, 66 NFL wide receivers caught more than 48 passes last year. 16 wideouts scored eight or more touchdowns.

Doesn’t Buffalo already have a running back (or two)?

2009 didn’t provide many highlight performances for the Bills, but they were able to muster a half-decent rushing attack. Buffalo ranked 16th in rushing (116.7 yds/gm) in 2009. However, keep in mind that in nine games last year, the Bills were trailing at the half.

In addition, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch are still on the roster. Sure, Lynch has been rumored to be on the block, but how much do you think he’s worth now that everyone in the NFL saw the Bills draft Spiller last night?

Not much. If they can’t find a taker, Buffalo may end up cutting Lynch and getting nothing in return.

Is Trent Edwards still the guy in Buffalo?

Jimmy Clausen and Tim Tebow may not be the answer in the eyes of the Buffalo faithful, but would you rather have one of them or another season of Trent Edwards?

Again, I want to make it clear that I’m not saying Spiller is a bad player—far from it. He’s going to cause mismatch problems for opposing defenses and can provide an adrenaline boost to the kicking game.

The problem is that the AFC East is now armed to the teeth with talent. Miami brought in Brandon Marshall and drafted Jared Odrick, the Jets have been stockpiling experience and talent all over the field and New England is, well, New England.

Buffalo had several issues they could have addressed in last night’s first round. The running back position wasn’t one of them.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

Comments

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David Sharek
Apr 23, 2010
11:02 AM

Joe,

Think about the Bills for a second. What's their identity? They have none. Now, what identity can they build?

Last year the Bills rebuilt the interior of their offensive line. Finally the Bills got a running game. Fred Jackson, a man who tries hard, rushed for 1000 yards even though he wasn't drafted. So you could say it was the line that did the work. What would a world class runner do behind that line?

The Bills need a passing game too, but think of the keys that have to be in place before that happens. They need 1-2 Ts, a QB and a #2 WR. So how long will it take to draft those players, then have them mesh and be on the same page in the passing game? Maybe 2-3 years. A T will not solve the passing problem.

WIth Spiller the Bills now have an identity -- they are good at something. Shoot, I'd like them to be good at anything. Buffalo gets snow, so you have to be able to run the ball. Now starting this year, the Bills have an identity. The opposing coaches have to plan on stopping our ground game.

Overall, who else would the Bills have drafted at #9? Clausen who slipped into round 2? Maybe Bulaga would be good. When the Hall of Fame players took the stage before the draft the stage was filled with skill players -- RBs, WRs, QBs. Playmakers on offense.

The Bills haven't been able to score for years. They obviously cannot sustain drives. They need a RB who can sprint 50 yards for the TD. There's an abundance of good tackles in this draft, even AJ Smith thinks so. The bottom line is there was only one breakaway threat in this draft -- CJ Spiller.

David Sharek

DDOG
Apr 23, 2010
11:11 AM

Holy smokes man I completley agree, I mean what are they thinking? I'm a die hard Bills fan and always will be but i was very dissapointed in that draft choice.

Joe Fortenbaugh
Apr 23, 2010
11:16 AM
Joe Fortenbaugh

David,

I love the breakdown and respect the analysis. You made some good points.

But I notice you didn't mention anything about the defense in there. With Brady in New England, Marshall/Wildcat in Miami, you have two tough offenses you need to slow down.

In addition the Jets are going to have another outstanding defensive year and can run the ball at anyone. So if Buffalo can't stop them, how can they expect to outscore them.

Spiller's a baller, no doubt. But the Bills still need a ton of work.

Thanks for the comment.

Joe

dave
Apr 23, 2010
11:18 AM

Typical Bills. They are NOT smart! They stink up the field. You don't go to the playoffs or Superbowl cause you have a good ground game. You need to be very good at everything, but you really need a name QB ! Bills could have drafted Clausen or Tebow. That was the smart move. trent Edwards will never get any team to the Superbowl. Never happen. The other two will. That is where they should have started, but being the Bills, they did not surprise us by doing the smart thing. They did the Bills thing....stupid !!!

ps. Who was the Bills QB last time they went to the SB? Yeah !!!!!!!!!!

Dave
Apr 23, 2010
11:28 AM

What a surprise that you are clueless to Spillers value.
Buffalo is in the first year of rebuilding with Nix in charge.
Spiller was a top 5 player in the draft and one of the most dynamic players to enter the NFL in years.
Talent trumps need on a team that pretty much needs everything.
Spiller will elevate the play of those around him.
Your analysis continues to be worthless.

dave
Apr 23, 2010
11:42 AM

Say what you will, Dave, but the facts in the NFL are that a team needs a big name QB to always be in the hunt. Nobody doubts the value of Spiller, but he is NOT the answer for the Bills right now. They had the chance to grab one of two big name QB's that can lead the team to playoffs. But no, they are idiots ! Trent Edwards ? Come on. He is mediocre and always will be. Never get to the big dance. The Bills mentality (front office) is stuck in the 1950's. Until they get the great QB I'm afraid the only events in Buffalo will be wings & the snow.

Jeremy Crowhurst
Apr 23, 2010
12:26 PM

Great article Joe, you're bang on. I think there were about a million people who uttered a collective "huh?" last night, as much at the speed of the pick as at the pick itself.

Dave, you're missing the big picture. Let's say you're right, and Spiller is a top-5 talent. It's talent they can't actually benefit from this year, because they don't have the line or the passing game that a runner needs to convert talent into production. The Bills, regardless of who they drafted, are going to be in the same approximate draft position next year, and the 2011 RB class will be no worse than this year's.

The Bills just don't get it, plain and simple, from the top to the bottom.

soulfoundation
Apr 23, 2010
12:38 PM

Joe,

Why is it that you and many other posters seem to think the draft is over?? Can they not get a LT or NT in Rd. 2 and 3? Lee Evans is a good WR. He needs a QB, true enough, but who should they have taken at 9? A QB nobody in the league thought was worth a first round pick? A LT who has maturity issues like a bust named Mike Williams; a supposed dominant RT who now plays G for the Redskins after being out of football for two or three years? An OT who was so great he went in the 20's? Or the NT who went at 26?

The Bills need playmakers and they got the best one available at a good value spot at 9. They were right to take him. He can score from anywhere on the field at anytime and in a division with offensive fire power they will need to be able to score. Spiller does that routinely.

And again, the draft is 7 rounds not 1. It's way too early to judge any team's draft. Let's see what happens this evening. Charles Brown and Rodger Saffold were players that were thought to be sneaking into first round range before last night. Cody is still out there, Joseph and Thomas. Troupe. Kindle. They will have ample opportunity to draft their LT or NT. I don't agree that they NEED a WR. Hardy and Johnson are young players who have suffered injury and a coaching regime that had terrible offensive game planning. This year they get their chance to finally show what they have.

jerryo
Apr 23, 2010
12:53 PM

Ok so the bills have at least a dozen critical need areas. Say you get a good lineman, now you only have 11 critical needs. Spiller was an excellent pick cause he'll juice everyone up, and will change the way defences line up against you. Ok maybe not a lot, but he can cause players to hesitate, even if a little. Plus he's the type of character guy thats vital to getting the most out of your TEAM. He'll give it all, no small market blues here.

Dave
Apr 23, 2010
01:20 PM

Joe: By the way- why the harping that the Bills did not take a blocker like Anthony Davis instead of Spiller? According to Wes' rankings on your site( as either you nor I have any qualifications to pretend to be scouts) he has Saffold, Brown and Ducasse rated AHEAD of Anthony Davis.
Well lo and behld all three are stil available going into the second round and with only 8 picks before the Bills selection there is a good chance they will be able to take a tackle rated higher by your site than Davis is.
As Buddy Nix sad...there are many lineman available in this draft- but only one Spiller.
I think you will come to find that out in the coming years loud and clear.

Dave
Apr 23, 2010
01:23 PM

Joe: By the way- why the harping that the Bills did not take a blocker like Anthony Davis instead of Spiller? According to Wes' rankings on your site( as either you nor I have any qualifications to pretend to be scouts) he has Saffold, Brown and Ducasse rated AHEAD of Anthony Davis.
Well lo and behld all three are stil available going into the second round and with only 8 picks before the Bills selection there is a good chance they will be able to take a tackle rated higher by your site than Davis is.
As Buddy Nix sad...there are many lineman available in this draft- but only one Spiller.
I think you will come to find that out in the coming years loud and clear.

Joe Fortenbaugh
Apr 23, 2010
01:48 PM
Joe Fortenbaugh

Dave,

Why not draft Davis in the first, Saffold in the second and a running back like Hardesty, Dixon or Dwyer at No. 72? That gives you two young, solid o linemen to pair with Wood and Levitre and shores up the o line for close to a decade. It also gives you yet another RB to pair with Jackson and Lynch (if he stays). This is assuming you dont just use the first three picks to address the front seven, which could have REALLY helped the defense.

How many plays will Spiller be on the field for next year? 15? 20? Davis could play all 50-60.

MonteCristo
Apr 23, 2010
02:42 PM

Really, the bills probably should have just tried everything to trade down. They have a ton of needs, better to get more picks and take care of the issues.

Hopefully they can get rid of Lynch but honestly, I don't think he's worth much regardless.

BearMarket
Apr 23, 2010
03:05 PM

Agree it was a poor pick. Now the Bills can still lose but maybe have an exciting moment or two. That's not the point.

Honestly this is all just opinionating. Look at San Fran. They took too O lineman. Great, now they can protect a crappy QB. Teams have their reasons for the way they draft. As fans, we can bitch and moan or whoop and holler. At the end of the day we are still slaves to our teams and won't desert them.

I hope it works out for the Bills. They are in one tough division.

chris
Apr 23, 2010
03:28 PM

Typical bills it all started with the benching of flutie in 99 its been down hill from there

Cory
Apr 23, 2010
04:11 PM

Spiller wasn't a bad pick, it was just a bit unexpected. My guess is the two best OTs were gone, and McClain just went off the board. At 9 Spiller was great value for incredible talent. We'll see more of the new regime's hand tonight depending on if they make a play for Clausen or McCoy, or go after an OT like Charles Brown.

dave
Apr 23, 2010
08:39 PM

Well Joe, the bills had yet another chance to take Clausen. Did they do it ? Unreal. perhaps they have a backroom deal brewing with the Steelers for Big Ben ? Or perhaps they just enjoy losing? It has certainly become their tradition and identity !!! Good luck, Buffalo.

Keith
Apr 24, 2010
12:16 AM

The Bills have a lot more talent on their roster than ANYONE, even their own fans, give them credit for!! Injuries last year kept this team from competing. Their run defense will be fine with the additions they made on day 2 and a healthy LB core... And their pass defense? Um, that was pretty good last year even with Leodis McKelvin out for almost the entire season and more injuries to McGee, Scott, and Byrd. The Bills D is solid and will be for years to come. Their offense is a wild card, but I think Spiller is a great pick and will finally give the Bills are real game-breaker.. you only need to manage about 21 pts/game to win most of them and I'm actually of the belief that the Bills have plenty of talent to do that. They're going to surprise all of you so-called "experts" and terrible fans

gerald
Apr 27, 2010
07:34 AM

I'm not sure I understand this article. Your first alternative to drafting Spiller is to upgrade the run defense, and you mention in the comments that the Bills should devote more resources to the run defense.

Yet the Bills drafted a nose tackle and a defensive end with their next two picks, and signed Andra Davis and Dwan Edwards in the offseason - two run-oriented players. Davis, Edwards, and Troup are probably going to start, and Carrington is probably going to get a lot of rotational time.

Spiller may or may not have been the right pick, and I agree that pass rush and offensive line and quarterback present serious holes, but the run defense has gotten a lot of attention.

As far as the pick itself goes, if Spiller is as good as he's supposed to be - good enough for a 9th-overall pick on a team with many needs - then his presence will have a positive effect on the Bills' QBs and WRs and he may even alter our perceptions about Buffalo's offensive line. If not ... well, we all know how that story ends, so why bother.

Mike
Apr 27, 2010
10:23 AM

Ever

Andrw
Apr 27, 2010
10:39 AM

On Day 2, the Bills picked (some say reached) a potentially 3 down NT with a solid work ethic and a man beast of a DE who is a run stuffer but yet failed to address their run defense? Add in Andra Davis and Dwan Edwards and our defense has seen significant improvement vs the run.

Gailey said himself that he did not like any QB other than Bradford over Brohm. I don't think that anyone could say that any QB in the draft is better than Brohm at this point in time. Why not give him a shot?

Spiller will change the identity of this offense. He will score points. How do you deny 21 TD's of 50+ yards through his college career? He also takes McKelvin/F Jax off of return duty without a drop in talent.

O-Line is definitely something that needs to be upgraded and I think we will look at bringing in a veteran. Flozell would be serviceable for a year or two and would help our youngsters develop. Gaither is available. Brown from the Saints is available. Any one of these guys would bring an immediate upgrade to our line.

Bob
Apr 27, 2010
11:00 AM

Have you been fast asleep????? The Bills did everything that you questioned, Whats up with you. What makes you a better authority on what the Bills need than their coach and GM. Have you been sitting in on discussions with management and reviewing film with them???? You should wait until you have come down from your high on drugs or what ever it is that your on, before writing articles. REMEMBER Put your brain in gear before you write something

TJ
May 03, 2010
08:30 PM

Have you ever seen CJ Spiller play - - live? I have. And I have seen other greats like Walter Payton, been to a couple of pro-Bowls, etc. CJ Spiller is far and away the most talented athlete I have seen in person with the possible exception of Michael Jordan in basketball. And the kid has character. Buffalo - fasten your seatbelts and enjoy.

TJ
May 03, 2010
08:40 PM

Have you ever seen CJ Spiller play - - live? I have. And I have seen other greats like Walter Payton, been to a couple of pro-Bowls, etc. CJ Spiller is far and away the most talented athlete I have seen in person with the possible exception of Michael Jordan in basketball. And the kid has character. Buffalo - fasten your seatbelts and enjoy.

replica omega
Jul 19, 2010
08:16 AM

Holy smokes man I completley agree, I mean what are they thinking? I'm a die hard Bills fan and always will be but i was very dissapointed in that draft choice.

Sesli Sohbet
Jul 23, 2010
03:05 PM

Thank you for the information your provide.

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