Looking back, he probably would have been better suited entering the 2009 draft after his junior season, when he would have been assured to get taken in the top half of the first round. Now that Spiller is among a draft class with such a stacked level of talent, he could slide into the late 20s. If that happens, the Patriots will have a real choice to make.
The 5-foot-11, 196-pounder rushed for 3,547 yards and 32 touchdowns in four years at Clemson, and he also caught 123 passes for 1,420 yards and 11 touchdowns. During his senior season, Spiller amassed 1,715 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns. He also returned seven kicks and one punt for a touchdown in his career.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
They have a good assortment of running backs, but they don’t have an elite player at the position. Spiller is a dynamic athlete with blazing speed, and he is also an asset in the passing game, which is always an intriguing asset in Bill Belichick’s eyes. Spiller would add home-run potential to the running and passing game, and he could add a real boost to the kick return game if the Patriots chose to play him in that role.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
Spiller’s size has scared teams. Since 2000, there have been 32 running backs selected in the first round of the draft, and Tennessee’s Chris Johnson is the only one who weighed less than 200 pounds, according to nfldraftscout.com. Plus, Belichick seems to prefer using a multiple-back system due to the high injury risk at that position, and Spiller’s smaller stature might not lead the head coach to a change of heart. The Patriots have other more identifiable needs — specifically at defensive end and outside linebacker — and they can add a good second-tier back later in the draft.
Potential Impact in 2010
Spiller, who is widely projected as the top back in the draft, would start right away for New England. He could be used on a variety of down-and-distance situations due to his explosiveness and prowess in the passing game. Given Wes Welker’s injury, Spiller would also be a big asset out of the backfield if the Patriots gear their offense toward the screen game.
What The Locals Are Saying
Here is a better look at Spiller’s decision to return to Clemson for his senior season.
Likelihood Spiller Is Available at No. 22
Spiller has made it past the 22nd pick in all nine of NESN.com’s mock drafts, but he could also realistically go in the top 10. There are teams drafting ahead of the Patriots who would probably like to add a guy like Spiller, but those teams have other areas they should address first. Spiller should be around for No. 22 unless one of those teams is too tempted by his offensive potential.
NESN.com will spotlight players the Patriots could take with their first-round pick.
April 12: Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham
April 13: Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap
April 14: Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant
April 15: Michigan defensive end/linebacker defensive end Brandon Graham
April 17: Texas defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle