Texas A&M RB Isaiah Spiller is widely regarded as one of the top-ranked dynasty fantasy football running backs in 2022. Following a successful collegiate career, what are Spiller’s strengths, are there any concerns, and how did his landing spot with the Los Angeles Chargers impact his dynasty value in 2022 and beyond?
Isaiah Spiller’s dynasty fantasy profile
The 2022 running back class featured a two-horse race for the top between Spiller and Breece Hall for most of the season. Then, Kenneth Walker III came in and lit up the NCAA in 2021, giving dynasty managers a third option to consider. Spiller was my RB3 post-Combine after sliding behind Walker. On film, he was my No. 2 strictly based on my grading process and criteria.
However, the NFL is not as enthusiastic about Spiller and his outlook. After a poor testing cycle, bot at the NFL Combine and his pro day, I’m not going to have “take lock” and refuse to see what is happening. He has fallen down my board and outside of the first round of upcoming 2022 dynasty rookie mock drafts. With that said, Spiller shined on film, leaving me some glimmer of hope he can prove the detractors wrong.
Spiller shines on film
That’s where I feel the love of Spiller is somewhat lost. Compared to others, he won’t impress you analytically aside from his size (6’1″ and 215 pounds) and age (he’ll still be 20 during training camp this season). His 2,993 yards and 25 touchdowns in three seasons are solid but not earth-shattering. Spiller was a contributor in the receiving game, recording 74 receptions for 585 yards, but he had just 1 TD. His 1.53 yards per team play is more than half a yard below Hall’s.
Spiller’s game fits with where the modern NFL is going. His best attributes come in categories that I weigh higher than others when compared to the likes of Hall and Walker. They all win in different ways. Pick the archetype you prefer and who lands in a better scheme for their style of game.
A two-time 1,000-yard runner for the Aggies, Spiller didn’t pull that off simply out of luck. For one, his vision is the best in the entire class. Vision is my top-weighted metric when grading, so Spiller has an edge on the rest of the class, including Hall.
Where I came away gobsmacked was Spiller’s ability to get in and out of cuts and how his burst and agility all come together. As with his vision, Spiller also came out on top in his between-the-tackles and open-field agility. While he’s not a track star, Spiller makes up for it in his burst.
Spiller’s contact balance would be right up there for his next best trait. It’s also No. 2 for me in how I view players. When that contact happens, Spiller usually comes out on top.
He sits down well when breaking down, which allows him to start and stop with ease. Due to this, Spiller also knows he doesn’t have to press the hole and become impatient behind the line.
Spiller brings reliable PPR value to fantasy
Additionally, Spiller checks the box as a receiver. Now, there’s a difference between a player who catches passes and one who is a pass-catching weapon. Spiller is the latter. While Spiller lined up in the backfield most of the time, Texas A&M also had no issue placing him in the slot or even on the boundary.
Given Spiller is at his best in space, it makes sense to do this. Add in his rather nuanced route-running abilities and confident hands, and for those in fantasy, especially PPR formats, Spiller brings the all-important receiving upside we need for an RB to be elite week in and week out. While’s he not his new teammate, Austin Ekeler, Spiller has the skills to see 60+ targets a season. Whether he gets this or not we will have to see.
Spiller is not a perfect back or fantasy asset. There’s no Jonathan Taylor in this class, and odds are both Hall and Spiller are closer to the lower end of the RB1 discussion than they are to the upper end. That’s fine. We need to stop looking at every prospect with rose-colored glasses and compare them to not just the 2022 class but the NFL as a whole.
For starters, Spiller’s not the quickest dude on the field. For many, this will be a determining factor in his upside. It’s the primary question of his game. Can Spiller pull away from NFL competition at the second level? Or will he be caught from behind? I feel Spiller has enough speed for the NFL. Anything in the 4.5 range will get the job done more times than not. The rest is just a bonus and adds to the upside.
Ball security and pass protection will be a question
Ball security will also be a topic of discussion at the NFL level. Spiller had 8 fumbles in his collegiate career. I will say these are not careless errors. More often than not, they came when fighting for extra yards. Defenders in the NFL are smart. The first guys will hold someone up when the rest come in to either finish the job or knock the ball out. Just look at Darius Leonard as an example. He’s perfected this technique.
Spiller could use some work in pass pro. He’s average at pass blocking but also inconsistent. I’m not overly worried, though. Pass pro is rarely coached in college, aside from learning protection calls. The willingness is there, which I care about more than anything. If a player doesn’t like contact, it doesn’t matter what level of coaching they receive.
Spiller’s injury history
Spiller’s durability isn’t an area for concern when viewing his dynasty value for 2022 and beyond. Aside from minor bumps and bruises, he’s got a relatively clean bill of health.
In 2021, he sustained a bruised tailbone against Alabama but came back in for the fourth quarter. Spiller suffered an ankle injury during the Orange Bowl against North Carolina, forcing him out after 11 carries. But at that point, he already had 2 touchdowns. What no one knew was that Spiller was playing on a fractured toe.
It makes sense why some of Spiller’s effectiveness was reduced towards the latter part of the season and should put to rest any questions about his competitive toughness and drive.
Los Angeles Chargers select Isaiah Spiller
It took two days and three full rounds, but Spiller finally came off the board. With the No. 123 overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Chargers added their complement to Ekeler in Spiller. At first glance, this is a better fit for the Chargers than it is for dynasty managers.
Spiller is now sharing a backfield and touches with one of the best running backs in the NFL. Over the last three seasons, including 2019 with Melvin Gordon, Ekeler has finished as an RB2 or better in 76% of his games, while averaging 19.7 PPR points per game. He was the RB4 in 2019 and averaged 16.5 points per game in 2020 (10 games). Last season, Ekeler finished No. 2 behind Taylor with 62.4% of the Chargers’ rushing share, 15.1% of their targets, 1,459 yards from scrimmage, and 20 touchdowns.
Spiller comes in as a complementary back, taking the role vacated by Justin Jackson, and will serve as the No. 2. Over the last three years, Ekeler has seen an increased workload on the ground, recording 39% of the rushes in 2019, 48% in 2020, and 62% in 2021. Odds are they would like to see that come back down just a touch to help keep Ekeler fresh and on the field.
Spiller can come in and, while not as explosive as Ekeler, be extremely effective as both a rusher and option out of the backfield as a passer. Spiller will be a priority handcuff for fantasy managers. If Ekeler were to miss time, he would be in a prime role on one of the NFL’s top offenses.