Dynasty Death Match: Isaiah Spiller vs Zamir White
By Doug Harrelson
This year’s draft class is not one likely to go down as an all time great in your dynasty league. The 2nd round picks in past years could get you some really nice pieces and proved to be extremely valuable especially in those SuperFlex leagues where the talent gets pushed down much further. After a 1st round loaded with WR talent, we reach this spot in the draft with a handful of RBs that are very close in talent and situation. Deciding which one to add to your roster could give you that huge value boost of a guy you could be starting down the final stretch of the season or could be cut from your roster in two years when they have failed to even sniff the field in a regular season game. Two such backs going in this range are Isaiah Spiller out of Texas A&M and Zamir White out of Georgia.
College Tape and Draft Capital
Draft capital is a complete and total wash since White and Spiller literally went back to back in the NFL draft last spring. Perhaps if we could put Chargers GM Tom Telesco under some truth serum he may tell us whether or not he would have taken Zamir White had the Raiders not taken him just one pick before. The only thing to take from the draft capital is the Raiders clearly preferred White, but we cannot be certain how much they preferred him. Mid 4th round draft capital is still early enough that I’m not panicked for either Spiller or White. We prefer the RBs with the Day 2 draft capital but RB is a position where we do see plenty of success from rounds 4-7 and even the occasional UDFA RB make a big splash. At one point during college Isaiah Spiller was considered to be the last guy in that upper tier of RBs in this class. The combination of draft capital and landing spot seemed to move him down a lot of boards as we got into our dynasty rookie draft season. A lot of positives stick out from Spiller’s game in college. Spiller has this excellent combination of power and elusiveness. He has an excellent ability to use that elusiveness in combination with his vision to find cutback lanes and create big plays. Spiller also does not shy away from contact and finishes runs hard which can be the difference between 2nd and 8 versus 2nd and 6. Things that are small to NFL fans but major to NFL head coaches. Spiller also showed some reasonable pass catching ability, perhaps not elite but good enough that if the role is available he can be successful. The biggest negative I saw from his college tape was sometimes he would try to cut back and make the big play which would result in a loss of yardage. Sometimes you just need to turn a negative play into a 1 to 2 yard game and live to fight another down. Negative plays sink drives so quickly. Very fixable issue though.
Whenever another Georgia RB comes to the NFL we are obligated to pay attention. Zamir White is no different. I may be alone in saying this but he was the preferred Georgia RB this year for me, over James Cook. The first thing that stands out on the tape for Zamir white is his ability to finish a run. The first defender usually has to get dragged for a couple yards until help arrives to bring him down. He may not be the strongest RB we have seen but he continues to drive his legs which results in a bunch of extra yardage that can help keep drives going. Zamir is also not a guy that will have many negative plays, he is extremely patient for his blocks to develop and has decent burst for a guy his size to attack the hole and start moving upfield. He has also shown some ability to catch the ball but I’m not sure that is where he is at his best. In the right offense he can be a check down back but I’m not sure there is a ton of upside in his pass catching.
From a fantasy football perspective, I give Spiller a small nod on the tape. The upside feels a little higher for Spiller while White feels safer. Spiller’s shiftiness can help him score you a bunch of fantasy points as a pass catching back while White is gonna need to either be a workhorse or get a lot of goal line work to reach his ceiling. Tape is not the only thing that matters for RB but for now, small edge to Spiller.
Josh Jacobs is entering the final year of his rookie deal in Las Vegas, an organization that seems to be wanting to clean house of the old regime and start fresh by getting their guys. Despite being a 1st round pick in the 2019 draft class, many would not consider Jacobs to be an elite talent. The Raiders may be even among those as they have declined the 5th year option on him which means he will likely be wearing another jersey in the 2023 season. We also saw Jacobs playing a lot of meaningful snaps in preseason which has many analysts believing that Jacobs is having to compete to hold the starting job under the new coaching staff. It would not be crazy to see a split early on in favor of Jacobs that slowly begins to lean towards White, just in time for the fantasy playoffs. Sharp dynasty minds can see the incredible upside in the landing spot for White.
Isaiah Spiller has a trickier road ahead of him. Austin Ekeler is a special offensive weapon that compliments the Chargers pass heavy approach by being one of the best pass catching RBs in the game. While they can get out from Ekeler’s contract and save about $6 million from the cap, the deal is pretty team friendly for a player of Ekeler’s caliber so that seems unlikely. Ekeler himself has come out and said he wants a 1A and 1B situation in order to preserve him throughout the season and his career so there is a chance we could have a useful spell back here. The problem is that Spiller still remains behind third year RB Josh Kelley on the depth chart. All of this combined makes the future for Spiller a little blurry and gives uncertainty for when we might see him carve out a role. This is the NFL though, and RB rooms in August seldom look the same by December so perhaps we just need to wait for his talent to give him a chance to get on the field. (Note: This was written before the signing of Sony Michel, this certainly doesn’t help Spiller but is likely not a major change, the crowded room remains crowded)
Winner: Zamir White
I am happy to roster either of these backs as I think they are not expensive to acquire and go in the early to mid 40s in ADP at RB and could have some immediate upside should there be any injuries in their respective backfields. The lean for Zamir White is the situation is significantly better at this point. He has fewer bodies to fight through in order to get a chance on the field and has a clear opportunity to be the lead guy in 2023. The 2023 rookie RB class could throw a wrench in this if the Raiders draft another RB as teams often do but it feels like more needs to go right for Spiller to get a chance to be the guy than it does White.