Tag:CJ Spiller
Posted on: April 15, 2011 1:22 pm

OT, RB depth underrated strengths of 2011 class

For most fans of the NFL draft, it is simply human nature to focus on the best players. These, of course, are the headliners that typically are drafted highest and thus, are expected to make the most immediate and lasting impact in the NFL.

Scouts, however, are very well aware of the fact that the big names will only constitute the first 32 or 64 picks of the 254 players selected this year.

As such, they're dedicating much of their attention to the lower rated prospects... and what they've been discovering is the unusual depth at offensive tackle and running back in this year's class.

By now, everyone knows the elite offensive tackles. Anthony Castonzo, Tyron Smith, Gabe Carimi, Derek Sherrod and Nate Solder are all expected to be first round picks . The depth behind the "fabulous five" is worth mentioning too.

Teams are quite high on the toughness and consistency of Alabama's James Carpenter and Miami's Orlando Franklin. With a little fine-tuning, TCU's Marcus Cannon, Indiana's James Brewer and Florida's Marcus Gilbert could surprise. Though level of competition questions abound, no one dominated their opponents as consistently as Villanova's Ben Ijalana throughout his respective career. There are a lot of teams very high on the long-term upside of lower level FBS prospects Derek Newton (Arkansas State), Jah Reid (Central Florida), Willie Smith (East Carolina), Byron Stingily (Louisville) and Byron Bell (New Mexico).

Running backs offer similar depth.

I highlighted three of the "sleeper" running backs that I really like in this video with CBS' Lauren Shehadi. Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers, Eastern Washington's Taiwan Jones and Hawaii's Alex Green are only a few of the backs not getting a lot of media attention that I feel will ultimately surprise. I'm also particularly high on Clemson's Jamie Harper, Louisville's Bilal Powell and Miami's Graig Cooper, though NFLDraftScout.com currently rates all three as Day three picks or, in the case of Cooper, even a potentially undrafted player.

Last year we saw two undrafted free agents lead all rookie running backs in rushing yards. Tampa found their star in former Oregon Duck LaGarrette Blount and New Orleans found a true diamond in the rough in former Tiffin Dragon (and Washington State Cougar) Chris Ivory. The three running backs drafted in the first round -- CJ Spiller (Buffalo), Ryan Matthews (San Diego) and Jahvid Best (Detroit) were all relative disappointments as rookies.

Considering the underrated talent of this year's RB class, don't be surprised if a Day Three find winds up competing for the league's rookie rushing title again in 2011...
Posted on: May 3, 2010 6:01 pm

Five biggest gambles of the draft

Considering the money and time invested, every draft selection ever made is, by definition, a gamble.

However, there are always a group of picks made each year that surprise me with their brazen and obvious risk. These are the picks that either earn general managers and scouting directors the admiration of fans and foes, alike, or result in unemployment.

These are the five moves that I thought were the boldest gambles of the 2010 draft.

  1. Denver's trading up to get Tim Tebow: You knew this would be on the list, but I believe it belongs No. 1 for reasons you may not have considered. The gamble isn't just that Tebow is, in the opinion of most, at least a year away from contributing. If you've followed my blog at all you know that I've argued for three years now that Tim Tebow could be a successful NFL quarterback and warranted second round consideration. I acknowledge that Tebow is a gamble in himself, but to trade up so aggressively to get him -- the Broncos gave up 2nd, 3rd and 4th round picks (OLB Sergio Kindle, TE Ed Dickson and TE Dennis Pitta) to Baltimore makes the selection significantly more brazen. Add to this fact that by drafting two wide receivers coming off foot injuries (Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker) in the first three rounds to package with Tebow, the team may not get much out of the early round picks in 2010. It is in this way where I really believe Denver's pick of Tebow was especially gutsy (some might say foolish), as the Broncos received stunningly little from their top picks of the 2009 draft, as well. The team got 19 tackles (and no sacks) from first round pass rusher Robert Ayers and 14 tackles (no INTs) from second round cornerback Alphonso Smith. By the time some of Josh McDaniels' talents start to contribute, the Denver head coach may be standing in the unemployment line. This team needed immediate contributors and they, instead, gambled on potential.  
  2. Carolina trading up to make QB Armanti Edwards a WR: Like the Tebow pick, I'm not as surprised with the fact that Carolina drafted Edwards or that he is being asked to convert to receiver or even that he went in the third round (despite NFLDraftScout.com ranking him as a 5th round pick). I'm stunned that Carolina was so aggressive in trading up to get him. The Panthers traded their 2nd round pick (to the Patriots) next year for the right to draft Edwards in the third round (No. 89 overall). Using what amounts to two top 100 picks on a project just seems like too much gamble for a team with as many holes as Carolina. 
  3. Tyson Alualu at 10: I don't consider this to be the gamble that many others, apparently do. Sure, I get that Alualu was a reach at No. 10. He likely would have been on the board in the early 20s. Sources throughout the league tell me the Jags actively worked the phone attempting to trade back out of this pick as they knew taking Alualu this high would invite criticism. When they weren't able to get a decent deal, they stayed put and took their guy. I like Alualu's game and feel that his underrated athleticism, incredible work ethic and position versatility made him one of the safer picks in the draft. While I don't believe Alualu will ever be a superstar, I do believe he'll prove a quality starter in the NFL for ten years or so. Despite what I think, the perception is certainly that GM Gene Smith and the Jaguars reached. If Alualu is a disappointinment -- even if just at first -- Smith could be on the hot seat.   
  4. Dallas/Buffalo/Kansas City ignoring OTs: In Dez Bryant, CJ Spiller and Eric Berry, respectively, I believe the Cowboys, Bills and Chiefs may have three of the most impactful rookies from the 2010 draft. However, the cost of ignoring offensive tackle in the first, second, third and fourth rounds may come back to bite these clubs. All three teams have significant questions at offensive tackle and considering how talented this year' crop was at the position, I'm stunned these clubs didn't make adding help upfront more of a priority. 
  5. San Diego trading up to get Ryan Mathews: I believe Ryan Mathews is the best all-around back in this draft and that his skill-set perfectly fits what was missing in the San Diego offense last season. That said, in making the biggest jump in the first round (trading up from No. 28 to No. 12), the Chargers are investing an awful lot in a running back that was unable to stay healthy during any of his three seasons at Fresno State. San Diego general manager AJ Smith is one of the league's gutsiest on draft day and this could pay off big, but this deal is like doubling down on 12 in black jack. It only looks brilliant if it works out. 

Posted on: April 16, 2010 5:18 pm

Addition of Ginn means Spiller won't be a 49er

San Francisco's trade for former Miami wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. likely means they won't now be willing to invest a pick in Clemson running back CJ Spiller.

The reason is simple. At least some of the reason why San Franciso had been intrigued by Spiller was his return ability. Spiller returned seven kickoffs for touchdowns over his career. The 49ers finished last in the league last year in punt returns and haven't had anyone return more than one kickoff for a score in the same year in the past 20 seasons.

Ginn returned two in the same game last year.

Considering how Miami had been looking to rid themselves of Ginn and the cheap cost with which the 49ers were able to fill one of their greatest needs, this appears to be one of the few NFL trades in which both teams came out winners.
Posted on: March 16, 2010 4:54 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2010 11:28 am

Jets, Rams schedule visits with RB Mathews

The belief among league insiders is that future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson signed with the New York Jets over the Minnesota Vikings because he thought he'd be able to get more carries playing with Shonn Greene than Adrian Peterson.

Sound thinking, probably.

However, the Jets might have another running back to add to the backfield if their choice of private visits is any indication.

Fresno State's Ryan Mathews told me the Jets and St. Louis Rams have invited him to come to their facilities for private meeting. Mathews told me this during our interview for his next journal entry for NFLDraftScout.com's Path to the Draft series.

Rams fans and running back Steven Jackson might be surprised by the news, as well.

Mathews also informed me that he'll be working out at tomorrow's Fresno State Pro Day despite the fact that he turned heads during the Combine with an impressive all-around performance. Mathews, who weighed in at 5-11, 219 pounds, was clocked at 4.45 in the 40-yard dash.

Mathews led the nation with an average of 150.67 yards per game in 2009.

NFLDraftScout.com rates him as the second best running back in the 2010 draft (behind Clemson's CJ Spiller) and a first round prospect.

I projected him to be selected by the San Diego Chargers with the 28th overall pick in my most recent mock draft.

Posted on: March 6, 2010 12:38 pm

Combine Risers-Fallers

Typically, my fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter writes the weely Risers-Fallers articles, but with his traveling on the deadline date I was asked to weigh in with my opinions.

There were well over a dozen players I strongly considered mentioning in the article. I elected to not list highly touted athletes like CJ Spiller and Eric Berry because there stock had already been established as clearly top grade. Similarly, I decided against writing up the elite athletes that scouts knew would be impressive -- like Taylor Mays and Jacoby Ford.

Perhaps the one player I struggled with most -- and ultimately didn't add -- was Cal running back Jahvid Best. He fit both of the earlier categories I mentioned as a highly touted player and a known speed demon, but the reason I elected not to list him among the Risers despite an eye-popping performance is that the grade most important to whether his stock will rise or fall -- his medical -- isn't yet known.

The five players I listed as Risers and five I listed as Fallers can be seen here.

As always, I'm curious to read your thoughts.
Posted on: March 2, 2010 7:29 pm

Fresno CB AJ Jefferson Combine's biggest star?

For all of the talk about Ndamukong Suh, Taylor Mays, Golden Tate, Jacoby Ford, CJ Spiller, and the rest of the superstars who fared well in Combine drills, the players who typically help themselves the most are the relative unknowns who explode onto the Indianapolis scene.

This year the epitome of that relative unknown who blew up the Combine might just be Fresno State cornerback and kick returner AJ Jefferson.

Jefferson, who entered the day rated by scouts as a mid round prospect at best (and likelier a 5th-7th round pick), was the unquestionable star among the defensive backs today.

Consider that he:
  • Led all 2010 Combine athletes with a 44" vertical jump (second highest recorded at CB since 2000)
  • Led all 2010 Combine athletes with a 4.0 second showing in the short (20 yard) shuttle
  • Led all 2010 Combine athletes with a 11.02 second showing in the long (60 yard) shuttle
  • Finished 3rd among cornerbacks with a 6.72 second showing in the 3-cone drill
  • Tied for 3rd among cornerbacks tested with a 10'6" broad jump
Jefferson was not listed among NFL.com's seven best runners in the 40-yard dash, but according to veteran scouts on hand, he was clocked anywhere from 4.43-4.49 in this event. 

Considering his size (6-0, 190 pounds), big play ability (3 kick returns for TDs), Jefferson's athleticism is sure to spark interest in clubs looking for a middle round diamond in the rough.
Posted on: February 28, 2010 3:37 pm

Clemson's Ford, Spiller star -- as expected

Clemson wide receiver Jacoby Ford ran so fast this morning I missed it.*

Ford is being credited with a 4.28 40-yard dash, the fastest time ever recorded by a wide receiver at the NFL Combine. The 4.28 second time is certainly impressive, but even more so is that some of the scouts on hand had Ford breaking the 4.20 mark...

His former football and track teammate, CJ Spiller, was similarly impressive only hours later. Spiller was credited with The NFL Network as having run an indentical 4.28 second 40-yard dash.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, however, there is no "official" time in the 40-yard dash. All that matters, of course, is that Ford and Spiller, as expected are very, very fast.

* I was one of the members of the media allowed to attend both the morning and afternoon throwing sessions inside the Combine. While we were there to witness the second group of wide receivers run the 40-yard dash, we were not inside during Ford's and the rest of group one's running of this drill.

Category: NFL Draft
Posted on: February 27, 2010 6:17 pm

Spiller won't do full workout, but will run

Clemson running back CJ Spiller will wait until his Pro Day to do most of the drills, but elected to participate in the bench press today (19 reps) and will run the 40-yard dash tomorrow.

Despite repeatedly being asked by the media during today's question and answer session, Spiller was unwilling to predict how fast he'd run.

However, his track history and explosive speed on the football field make it likely that he'll turn in one of the year's fastest times. Spiller finished second to former teammate Jacoby Ford (wide receiver) in the 100 meter dash during the ACC Championship. Spiller's personal best in the 100 meters was 10.22 seconds. He's has 21 touchdowns of 50 yards or more.

Spiller leaves Clemson as the ACC career leader with 7,588 all-purpose yards. He was the only FBS back to score at least one touchdown in every game this season and was the ACC Player of the Year.

He's NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated running back and a potential top ten selection.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com