If you take C.J. Spiller with your first overall pick in a draft this year, you’re either crazy, or you’re a pioneer.

The Housekeeping

Notable additions: Kevin Kolb,

Notable draft picks: E.J. Manuel, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin

The Marquee Men (the elitest of the elite)

C.J. Spiller (ADP: 6.6): Earlier this offseason I did a short series in which I argued with myself, and debated who is most worthy of being the first overall fantasy pick, a pristine title that could make you or break you. Usually, that conversation starts and ends with Adrian Peterson’s name. But a man can’t eat off of two-word blog posts, and June and July are dire times, so a discussion was had.

Now, I regret excluding Spiller from said discussion. If we’re entertaining the zaniness of not selecting Peterson first overall, then Spiller belongs alongside Jamaal Charles, Doug Martin, and Arian Foster among the crazy options that seem much less crazy after we do some thinking and ponder some numbers.

Spiller’s 2012 numbers? Yeah, they were crazy…

  • 6.0 yards per carry, which remarkably includes five games when his YPC was over 7.0. Oh, and he also averaged 12.1 yards per carry during his 169-yard performance in Week 1 against the Jets.
  • 1,703 total yards when you add in his 459 yards through the air. He also had three 30-yard catches due to his acceleration and after the catch ability, all of which led to 6.8 yards per touch.
  • Spiller’s overall rushing yardage (1,244 yards) becomes even more impressive when we remember Chan Gailey’s maddening stubbornness, and insistence on riding a platoon in his backfield between Spiller and Fred Jackson. He was a top 10 rusher (eighth), despite finishing 22nd in attempts (just 207, with no 25-carry games).

More on that last note of absurdity, as there’s another way to look at Spiller’s slashing and blazing that ends in great joy, or if you have the misfortune of being a Bills fan, utter disdain for Gailey. Spiller had a +1,200-yard season despite averaging only 12.9 carries per game, so of course much of that yardage was achieved through large chunks, with the former Clemson stud finishing second in runs of 20 yards or more (12). Meanwhile, on 83 more carries, New England’s Stevan Ridley finished just 19 yards ahead of Spiller.

We can keep playing that game with a few more examples. Considering the vast separation in their respective workloads, the lack of a gap between Spiller and Arian Foster is also pretty astounding, as Foster had 144 more carries, and only 180 more yards. On 69 more carries, Tennessee’s Chris Johnson was one yard behind Spiller. Yep.

Usually, value and the first round don’t go together. First-round picks are what they are (ideally): elite, can’t-miss players who will all produce at varying levels of elite-ness. But look at Spiller’s numbers again, then look at his ADP above and elsewhere (sometimes he almost falls out of the top ten somehow), and then remind yourself that he could easily see 30 touches per week in Nathaniel Hackett’s offense which averaged 79.1 plays per game last year when he was with Doug Marrone in Syracuse.

Then go ahead and feel really comfortable making Spiller a top five pick.

Stevie Johnson (ADP: 85.3): There’s uncertainty around Johnson, which is a natural thing when the quarterback throwing him the ball will either be Kevin Kolb, or the promising but still raw E.J. Manuel who was, at best, a surprise first-round reach when every other quarterback fell substantially during April’s draft.

But I’m here to tell you that if your expectations for our boy Stevie are in the proper position, the self-fulfillment you receive from owning him will be quite nice. Remember that as easy as it is to chuck daggers at the Bills quarterback quandary, Johnson was catching passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick last year. That’s the Ryan Fitzpatrick with a career passer rating of 76.8, and yet over the past three seasons while he caught balls thrown by that horrible man, Johnson averaged 1,041 receiving yards, with 79 catches and 7.7 touchdowns.

He’s remarkably consistent, and he’ll play the slot much more often this year, which is where he’s been getting most of his work thus far during training camp. The sample size of Johnson in the slot that we have to draw from his somewhat limited because he’s mostly been asked to be an outside burner. But of his 39 slot targets last year he caught 27 of them for 359 yards (an average of 13.2 yards per catch). Even better — so much better — four of his six touchdowns came from the slot.

The Middle Men (middle-to-late round options)

Robert Woods (ADP: 161.1): Woods is battling with T.J. Graham for the No. 2 spot behind Johnson, but in truth, that may just be a name. With Johnson in the slot, the Bills could use three wide receivers often, which in turn will lead to widespread targets, and widespread fantasy value.

I featured Woods in our Deep Sleeping series early last month, because of not only his speed, but also his quality hands and field sense which will provide comfort for Manuel if the rookie is selected as the Week 1 starter. Kolb has already called Woods a “legitimate stud“, and at his current price, you could be purchasing one of the most highly-targeted rookie wide receivers for the draft equivalent of several pennies.

T.J. Graham (ADP: undrafted): All of the above words about Woods apply here, just even more since Graham’s ADP is so low it doesn’t exist, and we have one year of pro-level ball to use as a limited sample size. And what does it tell us? Well, not much, since Graham was sparsely targeted while catching only 31 footballs, and he had six games with less than 10 receiving yards. But he flexed his speed muscle (which is located directly below the Adam’s apple…I know, weird) with two +40 yard catches on his minimal targets (58).

Scott Chandler (ADP: undrafted): Scott Chandler was mostly a dirty tease last year. Touchdowns are both the bread and the butter for tight ends, and four of his six came over the first four games. He also averaged 53.8 receiving yards per game during that stretch, which is much higher than his overall average of 38.1. That came a year after Chandler pulled nearly the same stunt in 2011, just a little worse: six total touchdowns spread over just four games the entire season (four over the first three weeks, and then two more in Week 8).

That’s who he is: a scattered, sporadic producer who will thrive in certain matchups and disappear in others, while overall posting average tight end numbers. So basically, he’s a walking, talking, catching, and scoring example of the perfect streaming candidate for those who enjoy dangerous living.

The Menial Peons (sleepers, flex plays, and matchup plays)

Fred Jackson (ADP: 99.5): I almost put Jackson in the category above, but ideally if Marrone sticks to his word and rides the hot backfield hand, Jackson’s role will increasingly be marginalized, because the hand with sizzle will always belong to Spiller.

Jackson isn’t a true 32-year-old running back in the sense that his body is about to explode, because he didn’t start to receive a heavy workload until his age 29 season. Still, please scroll up a little to remember Spiller’s yards per carry and per touch that were barely human, and then note that Jackson averaged only 3.8 yards per carry. He’s fading fast.

Kevin Kolb/E.J. Manuel (ADP: undrafted): Their support and the girth of speed at wide receiver that begins with Johnson and ends with Da’Rick Rogers puts the winner of this camp competition a little bit ahead of the Jets’ quarterback calamity we discussed yesterday. But only a little.

It’s just simply impossible to trust either arm much here for fantasy purposes, though if we’re getting our pom poms out during camp, it’s for Manuel. Sure, Kolb has been unfairly tainted by his time in Arizona and the repeated beatings he took behind an offensive line which gave up 58 sacks in 2012. But Manuel provides much more fantasy intrigue with his legs, and if he wins the job, he has a reaching, dreamy shot at being this year’s poor (nearly broke) man’s Russell Wilson.

The Mop-Up Men (deeeep sleepers and handcuffs)

Marquise Goodwin (ADP: undrafted): I just name dropped Rogers, and he could be the deepest deep sleeper after consistently hooking up with Manuel on long balls throughout OTAs. But in Goodwin we have the more realistic deep rookie prize. The third-round pick could be buried behind Woods and Graham, or he could contribute to the outside track meet with Johnson in the slot.