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Fantasy Football 2015: C.J. Spiller, The Saints and Redemption

fantasy football, sean payton

C.J. Spiller is the hottest girl at the bar.

I met him a few years ago, watched him all night and fell in love. He did things that got me so, so excited that all I did was talk about him. There was a relationship between the two of us, sure, and for a while, I thought he would never hurt me. But after I ranked him as the number-two running back in all of fantasy heading into the 2013 season, he betrayed my trust.

He hurt me, y’all.

However, rather than moving on, there I remained, continuing to wonder what could be with Spiller. He’s the hot blonde that forces you to keep coming back for more, no matter how many times you may get hurt. Now in New Orleans, is this the year I move on from Spiller as an exciting fantasy prospect?

What are you, new?

The Fit With New Orleans

As much as I hoped he would be, Spiller is not going to be a 275-carry guy. He’s just not. However, that could actually be a good thing, especially in this Saints offense. For his career, Spiller is averaging five yards per carry and just under eight yards per catch. When the ball is in his hands, he’s still one of the more explosive backs in the NFL, and head coach Sean Payton and the Saints understand that.

“He’s physical. He’s the most explosive player on the field a lot of times when you’re watching him. And you know, he’s someone who’s been in the AFC, he’s not someone we see a lot of on film. So he’s an exciting player that clearly heading into free agency there wasn’t any thought about, and then after that first rush there was some interest. And I think to his agent’s credit, they looked at it from a ‘how he was going to be used’ standpoint, the system, the offense and wanting to be a part of it. And we feel the same way.”

Payton went on to state how anxious and excited he is to see what Spiller can do in the passing game, which is what I’m most excited about, too. After a career year, Mark Ingram was re-signed by New Orleans, so he’ll likely see the bulk of the carries. But Spiller is in line to potentially lead all running backs in receptions if he can stay healthy. And look, I get it. The guy has been nicked up a bit in his career. But don’t say he’s injury prone, because guess what– every player in the NFL is. Also, Spiller has played in 61 of his first 64 career games, so calm down.

Let’s take a deeper look at the Saints’ offense, shall we?

Saints-RB (1)

Obviously, the Saints have a long and impressive history of utilizing their running backs in the passing game. Reggie Bush averaged just under 60 receptions during his five seasons in New Orleans, and posted two seasons of 70 catches or more. Then, of course, there’s Darren Sproles, who averaged 101.3 targets and 77.3 catches during his three-year tenure with the Saints. And finally, Pierre Thomas has averaged 70 targets over his final two seasons in New Orleans, and now he’s gone.

As well as a guy named Jimmy Graham.

Over the last two years, Graham has seen nearly 300 targets in the passing game. In fact, nearly 53 percent of all Saints’ receptions from last year came from players who are no longer on the roster. Enter Spiller, who should thrive with a guy like Drew Brees, who is probably the best intermediate/screen passer in all of football. Thomas averaged over five targets per game over the last two seasons, and when you consider that Spiller has caught just under 78 percent of his career targets, it’s safe to assume that Spiller would catch plenty of passes if he saw that type of usage in the passing game. One thing is for sure, however. He’s definitely going to see a significant uptick in targets, going from Buffalo to New Orleans.

Bills RB

Spiller’s career-high for targets in a season is 56 back in 2011, when he caught 77 percent of those targets for 459 yards and two touchdowns. You could legitimately make the argument that his targets will double during his inaugural campaign with Brees and the Saints, especially when you consider that New Orleans targeted the running back position more than any other team in football last year, and that was WITH Jimmy Graham.

There’s No Place Like Dome

During his first five seasons in the league, Spiller was playing the majority of his games in the cold outdoors of Buffalo, New York. And again, he has averaged an impressive five yards per carry over the course of his career. Now he gets to play plenty of games in a dome, which could be a very scary thought for opposing defenses, as well as exciting for fantasy owners. Dave Richard of CBS Sports did some digging around, and highlighted some very intriguing numbers regarding Spiller and his performance on different surfaces. Richard points out that Spiller is averaging an awesome 5.9 yards per carry indoors for his career. And guess what? Spiller and the Saints will play 75 percent of their games indoors this season. That’s very exciting for a guy of Spiller’s ability.

According to Pro Football Focus, Spiller’s 2012 season–the last time he was fully healthy– helped him rank as the most elusive back that PFF has ever graded. He is still straight up dangerous with the ball in his hands. Unfortunately, many others are beginning to salivate at his potential in this vastly improved offense in New Orleans, which continues to boost his ADP.

CJ

*ADP via Fantasy Football Calculator

It’s only July, so it wouldn’t at all surprise me if his ADP continues to rise. But, man, I couldn’t stop chasing his upside in Buffalo, so there’s no way I won’t be invested during his first season with Drew Brees and the Saints.

Wish me luck.

Featured Image Credit: By vamostigres [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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