If you don’t know who Isaiah Spiller is at this point, it’s time to educate yourself. Spiller was the catalyst of the Texas A&M football resurgence in 2020 and figures to once again be the workhorse this upcoming season. While the SEC should have some very stout defenses, Spiller runs as hard as any running back you’ll see at any level. If you’ve seen the third X-Men movie, Spiller reminds me of the villain Juggernaut, running through anyone who gets in his way. Ok, I may have lost you there, but just know that Spiller’s calling card is his power. However, he’s quite a well-rounded player and his game will translate nicely to the NFL. The real question is, how will the NFL view a throwback running back?
Spiller runs like he’s angry at the ground and punishes defenders with no regard for their life. Seriously, it’s tough to find a running back who will run as physical as Spiller does. At 6’1″ and 225 pounds, Spiller gives off an old-school running back vibe. He might not be the fastest, but he’s going to be tough to tackle. His 486 yards after contact during the regular season was the most by an SEC running back. That’s even more than Najee Harris who went in the first round in 2021. As linebackers get smaller in the NFL to keep up with speedy receivers, Spiller will be able to take advantage by running in-between the tackles.
I don’t care what anyone says, the most important trait for any running back is vision. Just about any NFL running back can run through holes created by their offensive line. What sets the good apart from the average is being able to find cut-back lanes or the correct lane to run through. Spiller does an excellent job with cutbacks and jump cuts, but at the same time following his blockers. Even with a new offensive line in 2021, I expect Spiller to continue to create yards for himself by letting the defense over-pursue and cutting off their movement.
Big Play Machine
Despite having average at best speed, Spiller is a big play waiting to happen. His thirty-two rushes over 15 yards are impressive over his first two years, particularly when you realize that he plays in the best conference in college football. Most of his big plays were a result of a broken tackle or two but he was still quick enough to outrun the defense. He won’t be the winner of the combine, but he’s a guy you want on your side in the fourth quarter.
Lack of Patience
It’s true that when you see an opening, you have to hit it quick, particularly in the NFL. However, if you’re in a rush (no pun attended) then you don’t give enough time for your linemen to do their jobs. Too often I saw Spiller run into a wall of big bodies when he could have spent more time in the backfield waiting for things to open up. Le’Veon Bell is a great example of how to be patient as a running back. At his peak, he would spend an average of three seconds behind the line of scrimmage. I’m not saying Spiller has to do this, but he needs to take some steps in the right direction in regards to rounding out his game.
I’m not going to say Spiller isn’t a good receiver because he wasn’t given many chances. Of course, Texas A&M used Ainias Smith, a receiver, as a running back a decent amount so Spiller wasn’t getting any passing plays called for him. Spiller was good as a pass protector, so he’s not useless on third downs. I do worry that Spiller will never become a dynamic receiving option, which could limit his pro potential.
It’s tough nowadays to be a running back drafted in the first round, but I think there’s a solid chance that Spiller hears his name called early. It’s a two-man race between him and Iowa State’s Breece Hall for RB1 and in my opinion, it’ll come down to whoever is more versatile. There’s still plenty of time to settle that debate, but regardless of what happens, I love Spiller’s fit as a pro. You’ll feel comfortable giving him 20+ carries a game and you’ll know he’s going to do the little thing necessary to help you win. Simply put, you win games with guys like Spiller on your team.