Saints Sign C.J. Spiller
C.J. Spiller signed a four-year deal with the Saints on Friday, filling a void left by Pierre Thomas’ departure. Spiller joins Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson to form a solid trio in the backfield for New Orleans.
The Saints seem to be completely revamping their team, unloading Jimmy Graham to the Saints for offensive line help and a pick, along with Kenny Stills to the Dolphins for Dannell Ellerbe and a pick. The indication here is that Sean Payton and company want to go with a more balanced attack as opposed to something so pass heavy while shoring up other team areas.
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The immediate thought is that Spiller will be heavily involved in the passing game, ceding most early down work to Ingram and touches here and there to Robinson. Over the last four years, Pierre Thomas averaged just under four catches per game as the Saints’ primary receiving back. However, Spiller is more dynamic at this point when healthy compared to Thomas, and the Saints lost their best receiving weapon in Graham. Though Drew Brees’ passing volume may decrease, it stands to reason Spiller should still see several catches per game, as well as a handful of carries per game.
Spiller’s elusive rating dipped to 29.7 in 2014 after a 2013 rating of 37.5 and a 2012 rating of 94.6, which was the highest in the league for running backs who played 25% or more of their team’s snaps. Thus, there is precedent for Spiller having an explosive season, but it wasn’t last year’s injury-marred season or 2013. Still, at age 28, Spiller doesn’t have a ton of tread on his tires considering he has 668 career carries and 158 career receptions. Spiller also had 1.90 yards per pass route run in 2012, good for 5th in the NFL among qualifying backs.
One area Spiller struggles in? Pass blocking, as he’s been in the bottom tier of running backs for pass blocking efficiency ever since entering the league. Khiry Robinson did no better in 2014, but surprisingly, Mark Ingram blocked very well last year. Thus, the Saints may consider Ingram on the field in tandem with Spiller at times, as Spiller has lined up split wide before.
So what’s in store for Spiller for 2015 in fantasy terms? If you’re in a standard league, he’s a bench running back and someone you likely can’t trust in consistent setting, especially since Mark Ingram played so well last year. In points-per-reception settings, Spiller’s value skyrockets, as a 60-70 catch season is entirely within the realm of possibility. Thus, if we project Spiller for 65 or so catches and slightly above his career average yards per catch of 7.6, his PPR points from catches alone without touchdowns could net you 125 points.
400-500 yards on the ground and a few touchdowns is totally reasonable, which means he could hit around 190 PPR points, which puts him in the conversation for top 15-20 at the position. Our Mike Clay’s early projections are in line with what I’ve outlined here, as he has Spiller at 462 rush yards, 69 receptions, 668 yards and 5 total touchdowns, which would definitely cement RB2 status.
Keep in mind Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills leaving town in addition to Marques Colston’s decline signify even more opportunity for Spiller. There is risk, but no one will fault you for picking Spiller as your RB2 in PPR circles in his new scenario.
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