In our Scouting Reports, we will give you a quick debrief to get you the information you need to know. We’ll also take it a step further and provide an in-depth review showing off examples of what we like, and what we don’t. Included is a date from the initial scouting report, this is so new notes can be added as the year goes on. Those new notes will be dated as well. With that, welcome to the Isaiah Spiller scouting report!
Spiller shares the backfield at Texas A&M with the dynamic Devon Achane, forming an excellent 1-2 thunder-lightning combo.
Date: Original review 05.25.2021, updated 12.12.2021
Details: Isaiah Spiller | RB | Texas A&M #28
DOB: 08.09.2001 | 20 years old
H/W: 6’1” | 225 lbs
NFL Draft Projection:
Late 1st to Late 2nd Round Pick – It seems that, for a running back to be taken in the first round lately, he must have prodigious talent as well as excel in all areas of the game. With few exceptions, the running back position is being relegated to the second round or later given the surplus of comparable talent at the position. With some teams opting for role players to share the load, instead of the old “bellcow”, it only further diminishes the need for a high round pick. As such, I think Spiller has the best chance of making it in this year’s group, however that’s certainly no guarantee. I would expect to see him go early Day 2.
Dynasty Rookie Draft Projection – 1QB:
Top 3 pick – There are a few things that are inevitable, though running backs rising up fantasy draft boards at draft time is certainly one of them. In a 1QB league, it’s fair to assume at least one RB goes top three, and in my eyes that’s likely Spiller. While landing spot may ultimately decide these early picks, as we’ve seen in recent years with CEH vs. Taylor, maybe it shouldn’t…
Dynasty Rookie Draft Projection – Superflex/2QB:
Top 6 pick – Depending on the quarterback carousel this offseason, I can see as many as six rookie quarterbacks starting in 2022! That may be an unrealistic number, though it’s fair to see three end up as highly coveted QBs come draft time. With them floating to the top in SF/2QB, it naturally pushes down an otherwise top three pick into the middle of the first round instead.
At this stage in the 2022 NFL Draft process, Spiller lives on or near the top of many running back rankings. At a well-built 6’1″ 225lbs, he’s one of a handful of backs who have enviable size at an often punished position.
Spiller’s size, along with great balance and a natural inclination to get north/south, help him to grind out extra yardage where other backs can’t. When tackled head-on he can consistently churn out a few extra yards, and when wrapped up he consistently carries his weight forward for a couple extra as well.
To go with that balance and size, Spiller also has impressive athleticism. He can clear gaps like he’s shot from a cannon, shows great change of direction ability and the ability to maintain his speed while changing direction. Physically, Spiller is great, but it’s the stuff between the ears that I find most appealing.
His patience is great, with phenomenal vision and anticipation as well. He rarely makes a poor decision with the ball in his hands. His understanding of his linemen, as well as the defensive responsibilities, is outstanding. It’s very common to see Spiller press one gap knowing it will move a defender out of another. That’s when he capitalizes with top-notch burst.
As if that’s not enough, Spiller has also shown great concentration and hands as a receiver. He’s rarely utilized as a pass-catching type of back though, typically seeing a flat or swing route, with the occasional angle/V or wheel mixed in. Rarely will he flex out wide to do anything more than run a defender out of the play.
As for negatives to his game, he doesn’t capitalize on his size as well as he could. He’s not contact averse, but he doesn’t punish a safety in the alley. Also, he shows mostly solid mechanics as a pass blocker but there’s room to improve. And rarely, he will take unnecessary steps instead of attacking a gap immediately.
Watching running backs, there are typically a few attributes which stand out immediately, for better or worse. Their burst and speed, their hesitation or dancing behind the line, etc. Other attributes are harder to quickly identify, but are just as important.
An understanding of play design and of the expected defensive response is huge. This often shows up on film as patience, anticipation, and good decision making. We’re going to see all three of these from Spiller on this play.
Off the snap, we see the right guard and tackle are pulling behind the line, while the rest of the line blocks down. Knowing this, the defensive alignment pre-snap suggests that the slot defender is in contain, which means he and the mike are the likely targets of the pulling guard and tackle, respectively.
Knowing this, Spiller has the opportunity to showcase his patience as he waits for his linemen to set up; anticipation to see how the will backer and safety respond; and good decision making as he’s able to drive north/south and stay between the hashes to pick up a solid chunk on first down.
This play actually presents two gaps which Spiller can attack. He can go between the pulling guard and tackle and take on the safety – who is matched up by a slot receiver. Alternatively, he can go inside the pullers where his tight end will get hands-on with the will backer.
In this case, either decision would likely have been a big play. That said, it shows excellent decisiveness to pick a hole and attack, or to press one hole and attack the other. I’ve noticed in these situations that Spiller consistently chooses to attack the inside gap, and tries to stay between the hashes.
Spiller regularly presses one hole with the intention of moving a defender, then attacking a different (now exposed) hole. We saw it in the last clip, and we’ll see it again here.
This is a designed inside run, probably blast, where Spiller is intended to attack the right-side B-gap. Immediately off the snap, Spiller sees Jalen Wydermyer (TE #85) getting pushed back by the DE, so initially feigns attacking the inside gap, which causes the DE to overcommit.
Using this, Spiller then has an opportunity to quick-juke outside the TE. Once outside, he can play off the block of the right tackle, who has made his way to the second level.
Once again, he stays between the hashes and maintains as direct a route to yardage as possible, getting and staying north/south immediately. This is an incredibly consistent – and positive – trait when watching Spiller run.
Spiller’s consistency in his desire to get north/south, and seemingly his desire to stay between the hashes, is so strong it’s almost to a fault. This next play, our first look at a zone running play, arguably could have been better.
Typically the first read is going to be the playside hip of the center. We see that closes almost immediately by the nose tackle. This means Spiller should look to bounce it outside, or bend it back inside.
Watch how the right defensive end peels around the edge so hard that it leaves an open lane outside the left guard. This suggests that bouncing it outside could be a better gap to attack if he could get there – however – it would have required Spiller to attack it immediately after handoff.
Where I’ve paused the video, it’s likely too late. It seems by this point Spiller has decided to press the left-side and bend the run back, scraping the backside of his linemen to the right.
We’ve got another inside zone here, indicated by the offensive lineman’s first step playside and notably the double-team by the right guard and right tackle. Once again, Spiller’s first read is off the playside hip of the center.
Even before the snap, you can tell from the alignment of the defensive line that they’re trying to plug the inside gaps. There isn’t a defender on the line wider than a 5-technique. Further, the linebacker to the playside has a slot receiver to be concerned with too.
With these things combined, it’s reasonable to see – pre-snap – that bouncing outside is the best option if the double-team holds. As everything goes down, we see the double-team hold and we see Spiller stutter before bouncing it outside for a solid five yards.
While I wouldn’t classify this as a poor decision, it was disappointing to see Spiller not look to bend it backside. Even with that stutter-step behind the line, Spiller seems to have pre-determined to go frontside – outside the tackle.
Given this, I really would have liked to see one of two things happen instead: attack off-tackle immediately based on your pre-snap indicators (Travis Etienne did this a lot), or use the stutter behind the line to quick look backside, where there was a massive gap and loads of grass available.
In the last clip, I mentioned that I didn’t think Spiller made a poor decision. It seems to me he is consistently a quality decision maker. His record isn’t 100%, over the course of five games watched, I found only two outright poor decisions, both against ‘Bama.
Watching the first of the poor decisions, we see defenders close in from both sides of the line just as Spiller takes the handoff. There really isn’t a good option here, it sucks, but he’s just got to lower his head and churn forward into his linemen, hoping to get a yard out of this.
Instead, Spiller seems to panic – uncharacteristically – at the immediate pressure. He tries to bounce it outside the blitzing the defender, gets caught, and ends up losing a chunk of yards. This turns 2nd and 4 into a very difficult 3rd and long.
I feel the need to stress again, I watched five games and only saw two poor decisions, both against ‘Bama. I’m showing both here, though it really is uncharacteristic for Spiller.
Not only did both of these plays happen against Alabama, both had a force defender effectively free and in Spiller’s face. In both situations, Spiller should just drop his shoulder and drive forward into his lineman’s butt.
Had Spiller done this, he actually could have gotten a good gain. We can see a lane open which would have let Spiller get a couple yards before having to engage the pursuing linebacker.
More often than not, Spiller shows great anticipation and vision, along with great decision making. This next play is a return to the norm.
Here, Spiller finds the only hole available on this critical 3rd down. You’ll note, at the time Spiller starts to lower his shoulder and drive forward, there is no clear hole…yet. We see the vision and anticipation as Spiller spots the RT just as he’s starting to turn his defender out of his gap.
Spiller’s burst and strength are on display too. You can see the defensive end pushes Wydermyer (TE #85) back two yards into the backfield and gets his hand on Spiller as he drives forward. Spiller drives through the arm tackle un-phased and without slowing down, churning forward for the 1st down.
I haven’t talked about it much, but Spiller also shows great physical traits. He’s got good strength, balance, burst, change of direction ability, can maintain speed while changing direction, and has good speed.
In this play we see a little bit of everything. Right after the handoff, Spiller takes a hard left to follow the pulling blockers. He stays tight to the blockers as he turns back upfield at the first opportunity – seemingly speeding up during the turn to beat the Safety inside.
Florida’s sam backer on this play, Ventrell Miller (LB #51), is a good, solidly-built linebacker – roughly 230lbs – and typically a good tackler. In case you missed who I’m referencing, just look for the guy with his face in the dirt after contact with Spiller.
Plays like above are fun to watch on repeat, and memorable…as long as you’re not the guy knocked on their face. In all fairness, that isn’t commonplace in Spiller’s runs. Even when head-up on a defender, and even though he’s in the 225lb range himself, I feel Spiller doesn’t utilize his strength in that capacity as well as he could, as often as he could.
More often than not, we see Spiller throwing his weight around at the end of runs. Time-and-again, when he’s about to get taken down, Spiller is phenomenal at sticking his foot in the ground and throwing his momentum forward for an extra two to three yards.
Look for it on this next play. Spiller will get wrapped up from behind, at which point he throws himself forward for two additional yards. I see this happen at basically every opportunity. In the next three videos, we’ll see a 14 yard run stretch out to 16 yards; a four yard run turn into nine; and 11 yards ends up as 15 and a touchdown.
On this play specifically, we also see his patience in waiting for the double-team to break, and anticipation seeing his RG move the backer. Physically, he showcases outstanding burst. He sets up the free safety and throws a cross-over, with the aforementioned strength to churn out extra yards.
On this next play, Spiller ends up getting six yards after contact. The safety fills the alley and throws a shoulder at Spiller’s hip/thigh after about three yards gained. We see Spiller slow, bracing for the hit, but ultimately shrugs it off without much ado.
Spiller keeps his legs chugging and gets wrapped up after just another yard, but churns out an extra five to turn this three or four yard gain ultimately into nine. This type of leg churn and getting yards after contact was also seen consistently in my watching Spiller.
Here’s another run which really showcases a bit of everything Spiller has to offer. As we’ve seen many times, Spiller sets up his blockers by pressing the backside A-gap, before simply patiently waiting for the defender to get moved aside by the LT.
The backer is coming in hot, closing in after speeding past the LG. Spiller sees it and bursts past it. If you look at the angles taken by the ‘Bama defenders, it’s almost like they’re surprised by Spillers burst and speed, as the corner takes an angle too-shallow and has to hope to catch his shoestrings.
With two defenders in his face, in aforementioned fashion, Spiller throws his weight and momentum forward. The DB catches him and gets thrown forward. Getting an extra two or three yards would have been nice, but landing on the DB and rolling into reach of the endzone is much, much better.
Also, heady play for Spiller to recognize the situation and reach forward for the touchdown. Nicely done.
Spiller isn’t just an asset on the ground. He typically gets a couple opportunities each game, and has shown to have excellent concentration and great hands in the passing game as well.
The throw from Kellen Mond (QB #11) is just a little too far ahead and too high. Thankfully, Spiller shows great ball tracking and concentration to spot it, and great hands to fingertip catch this, along with the smarts to tuck it right after reeling this in.
Another year, a different quarterback, but more of the same. Zach Calzada (QB #10) leads Spiller a bit here, but Spiller again shows the concentration and hands to bring it in and convert this crucial 3rd down.
Spiller typically gets a couple opportunities each game to strut his stuff in the passing game. I think this will translate well to the NFL, and offensive coordinators will look to take advantage of skills like this.
One aspect which I’ve seen from Spiller that is lacking a bit in other top 2022 RBs is his comfort in the open field. Other RBs seem to stiffen-up a bit and look a little robotic or clunky. I see the opposite from Spiller, he’s just as smooth and strong on a screen as he is running between the tackles.
Take this next play, for instance. Spiller feigns the block before releasing to the flat on this screen. A linebacker is in his face immediately, but Spiller secures the catch and sidesteps the defender, working his way forward for about a nine yard gain before getting wrapped up.
Here, again, Spiller is able to showcase excellent leg churn and drive as he – with a little help from his lineman – takes four ‘Bama defenders for a five yard ride before finally going down. Nine yards turns into 14 yards, just like that.
We’re gonna wrap this up on his pass blocking, which I was simultaneously happy and disappointed with. Confused?…me too. Here’s what I saw…
Spiller shows mostly good fundamental mechanics when pass blocking, which is pretty rare to see from guys at the college level. One of the biggest issues with CFB RBs is ducking, typically from bending at the waist and reaching.
We see a bit of waist bend here, though Spiller does an excellent job keeping his head up to-and-through the engagement. He squares up the defender well, squats his butt down – though also bends at his waist. He keeps his hands tight and shoots to punch center-mass…but misses.
He’s definitely got a problem with his base which is far too wide here. His base is likely the reason why he bent so far forward here, so it’s something he will need to work on for the next level.
Here, however, he sets a better base – feet just over shoulder-width (still a touch wide) – and does everything else right. He’s able to block this edge rusher here, without OL help, and helps to form a solid pocket for Mond (QB #11).
This is why I was both happy and disappointed. He shows better pass blocking mechanics than most RBs at this level, but he’s still got plenty of room to improve for the next level. NFL coaches should be able to clean up the issues with his base, and he may even be trusted to pass block as a rookie.
Here’s what I see in Spiller: a solidly built, athletic running back, comfortable with the ground game and through the air, ready to contribute day 1. Given his ability in the pass game, and his potential blocking, he can easily be an every-down back for whoever drafts him.
Not limited to his physical gifts, Spiller’s ability on the ground show great patience, great vision and anticipation, and nearly always makes good decisions with the ball in his hands.
That’s not to downplay his physical gifts; Spiller has great burst and showed surprising speed, multiple times catching defenders in bad angles…and that meshes well with his strength, balance, and consistent leg-churn to drive out extra yards.
I can see Spiller going as high as a late 1st round pick, but can certainly fall into the 2nd. If he goes to be a bell-cow somewhere, like Atlanta or Miami, I expect he will be the top running back drafted in all formats.
What’s your take on Isaiah Spiller? Is he the top RB in the class, and if not, who you got? Drop a comment in the comment box below to let us know your thoughts!
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That guy who wraps up the #1 seed by week 13, dominates the points scored column, and gets blown out by the #8 seed in the first round of playoffs…annually. That’s Ben.
He’s also the guy who constructs a trade calculator for fun, and builds a fantasy football website when he wants to share his thoughts with the world.
As a Vikings fan and a poor golfer, Ben lives in a perpetual state of frustration. In his fun-time he’s a husband and proud father of two.