It’s a reactionary game, this fantasy football. Preseason darlings turn into mid-season busts in the blink of an eye. Perhaps even more frustrating then losing your top pick to injury is watching a (mostly) healthy stud under-perform in your starting lineup. Stevan Ridley and Arian Foster owners are all too familiar with this feeling and while owners of Buffalo’s speedy tailback looked to be spared from a similar fate after his inspiring Week 2 performance, he went right back into the crapper in Week 3. So, of course, it’s time to panic… or is it?
C.J. Spiller — a top five pick in most league — has whiffed in two of his three games in 2013, putting up a so-so seven points in Week 1 and just a single point in Week 3 before exiting with a thigh injury. Meanwhile, running-mate Fred Jackson is looking fully recovered from his 2012 injury issues and is running with a fury, averaging 5.3 yards per carry over 32 totes this season. F-Jax has also seen 16 targets over the first three games, cutting significantly into the work expected to go to Spiller.
While the injury to Spiller’s leg doesn’t appear to be a major concern, Jackson’s increasing workload just may be. Remember, Fred Jackson was a top-5 running back when on the field as recently as 2011, piling up 934 rushing yard and 6 scores while adding 442 yards on 39 catches in just 10 games. He was also solid when on the field during an injury-riddled 2012 as Spiller broke out as an elite running back. Spiller doesn’t necessarily need 20+ touches a game to do his damage, but F-Jax’ excellent play thus far has garnered him more attention and touches in the backfied. Despite the coaching staff insisting that Spiller would be the focal point of the Bills’ offense, there is a two-headed monster in this backfield that is not going away.
It’s time to sell while the value remains. Spiller was never suited to be a workhorse back and after struggling with injuries in college, he’s already showing an inability to withstand the pounding of an every-down role early in 2013. Despite electric ability, Spiller’s injuries and slight frame are going to overwhelm his fantasy owners, in a bad way. Fred Jackson continues to be an above average all-around back and the Bills have little reason to shy away from a hot-hand approach moving forward. Those rating Spiller as a top-5 option on draft day painfully under-rated F-Jax’ contributions this season and fantasy owners who took the plunge in the first round are now struggling to get production out of their backfield. Talent aside, the workload concern dictates that Spiller should be dropped behind several backs with more secure carries that he may very well have outranked earlier in the year including Alfred Morris, Chris Johnson, Bilal Powell and maybe even his teammate, Fred Jackson.
Relax, friends. It’s just three games. While many may see this situation as a reason to jump off the C.J. Spiller band-wagon, it is really your lone chance during the 2013 season to buy low. Look, Fred Jackson isn’t going away, but he doesn’t need to. Last season, during Spiller’s monstrous campaign, we saw a similar share of the work when F-Jax was healthy. To that point, Jackson saw 10+ touches in seven games last season. In those seven games, Spiller piled up over 100 total yards in four of them and tallied double-digit fantasy points in five of those seven games in standard scoring formats. Yes, the majority of C.J.’s 100-yard rushing performances came when Jackson was either injured or a more minor piece of the offensive plan, but there is absolutely no reason that Spiller cannot be an elite back with Fred Jackson also making a solid contribution. The lighter workload should help to keep Spiller fresh for a stretch run, just the time of year where fantasy owners are really going to need him. Don’t over-react, in fact, don’t even react to C.J. Spiller’s sluggish start to the season. This is an elite player in the backfield and if you can use this frustrating three-week stretch to obtain him at a discount, then you jump on that right now.