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NFL Draft: Should fantasy managers be worried about Isaiah Spiller's speed?

·4 min read
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Welcome to the 2022 edition of the Fantasy Football Rookie Snapshot NFL draft series! In this space, fantasy football expert Liz Loza will analyze the incoming class of first-year stars and gauge their impact — be it immediate or latent — on our fake football game.

First up, the running backs. Liz covered Iowa State star, Breece Hall, here. Here is her Snapshot on Kenneth Walker III. Finally, she profiles Texas A&M's Isaiah Spiller.

Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M

Size: 6-foot-0 and 217 pounds

Age: 20-years-old (8/09/2001)

Bio: An Under Armour All-American and four-star recruit out of Klein Collins High School, Spiller commanded attention from numerous big-name schools, including Alabama and Oklahoma. Ultimately, however, he stayed close to home, committing to Texas A&M and following in his father’s footsteps (Fred Spiller played tight end for the Aggies).

The decision proved fruitful, as Spiller contributed immediately as a true freshman, starting nine of 13 games and leading the team in rushing with 946 yards (174 carries) and 10 TDs. As a sophomore, he recorded six 100-yard games (eight starts and 10 contests played) while earning All-SEC First Team honors. The following year his rushing output receded slightly (1,011 yards on 179 carries over 12 starts) but he progressed as a receiver, recording 25 grabs and scoring his first receiving touchdown.

Pros: Vision, above-average short-area and stop-start quickness, capable receiver (converted 74 of 101 targets over his three years in College Station)

[Running Back Snapshots: Hall | Walker | Spiller]

Cons: Lacks top-end speed, doesn’t always play to size, below-average skills in pass protection and run blocking

NFL Comp: (A smaller, slower) Joe Mixon

The Big Picture

Spiller is matter-of-fact when describing his playing style, saying simply, “I see the hole, and then I hit it.”

He’s right.

Spiller’s vision is next-level. Whether he’s running inside or outside, the 20-year-old can spot an opening, keep his sturdy legs churning, and power his way through the gap. There’s more to his game than physical aggression, though.

Spiller’s style is strong, but also polished. Whether he’s fooling defenders with ace head fakes or sharp jump cuts, he always appears in control. A career YPC of 5.5 in the highly competitive SEC is a testament to the command with which he runs as well as his consistency. The 2,011 rushing yards after contact that he’s recorded since 2019 additionally demonstrates the regularity with which he breaks arm tackles and escapes to the second (and third) levels of the field.

Isaiah Spiller #28 of the Texas A&M Aggies is a top NFL draft RB prospect
Will Isaiah Spiller continue to break tackles in bunches in the NFL? (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

While Spiller is well-built for the position, he doesn’t always play to size, occasionally getting tripped up when defenders go low and target his ankles. He’s also not fast. In fact, the topic of his speed (or lack thereof) has created quite a debate. A strained abductor kept Spiller from running the 40-yard-dash at the Combine. The hope was he would rebound at his Pro Day in March.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Per Jane Slater, Spiller clocked in at 4.63, which — as Matt Miller pointed out — was “not good.” It remains to be seen if NFL franchises share Twitter’s concern over the Aggie’s time.

The Fantasy Fit

As outlined above, there’s a chance Spiller slides in the draft. Still, the Falcons are rich with picks. Even with Cordarelle Patterson returning to the Big A, the Dirty Birds’ backfield needs some muscle. Patterson was entrusted with double-digit carries at the half-point of the season, after Mike Davis (who plodded his way to a 3.6 YPC on the season) proved ineffective. The rushing work negatively affected CP’s role in the passing game, which ultimately tanked his efficiency (36.75 scrimmage yards per game from Weeks 14-17).

Given Calvin Ridley’s suspension and how short the team is on receiving talent, Patterson is likely to resume his role as a pass-catcher in 2022. That leaves a big opening for an explosive power runner who can also work as a receiver out of the backfield. Were Spiller to land in Atlanta he could fall into 13-15 carries per game. Marcus Mariota — for as long as he stays healthy — figures to vulture a few touchdowns, but the spot would still create low-end fantasy RB2 potential for Spiller.

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