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Possibility of losing Spiller has Whaley sizing up running backs

INDIANAPOLIS – The Buffalo Bills sound as if they’re bracing for the departure of running back C.J. Spiller.

General Manager Doug Whaley said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine that “there’s going to be some work that has to be done” if the team and Spiller are to come to an agreement on a new contract.

While here, Bills President Russ Brandon, Vice President of Football Administration Jim Overdorf and Kevin Meganck, the team’s contract administrator, have been in contact with Spiller’s agent, Chad Speck.

The possibility of Spiller leaving will play a big part in the Bills’ offseason plans. Whaley said in that case, another running back could be a consideration in free agency, or the team may look to the draft.

The good news is, if it chooses to go the latter route, this draft class should contain some difference-makers at the position.

“It’s deep. It’s one of those classes that we’re excited about,” Whaley said. “In the draft altogether, there’s some value in rounds 2 to 5 that you’re going to get some guys who will make an impact in this league.”

The list of running backs available in the draft starts with Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Georgia’s Todd Gurley. In the past two years, there hasn’t been a single running back taken in the first round. Both Gordon and Gurley have the potential to end that streak.

There is still a lengthy list of players who could fill the Bills’ need in the second round at the 50th overall selection. Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, Miami’s Duke Johnson, Indiana’s Tevin Coleman and Boise State’s Jay Ajayi are all projected to go on the second day of the draft.

“There is a resurgence of running backs,” Ajayi said. “I think for years to come that the NFL is going to see a rise, and a new running back class will just help the position grow and become more of a prime position.”

On a conference call earlier in the week, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock zeroed in on those four players as possibilities for the Bills.

“The knock on Abdullah, and it’s significant, are fumbles,” Mayock said. “I think he had 24 career fumbles and he lost 17 of them, which is the worst I’ve seen in a while, and that is compiled with small hands. That’s what bothers the scouts is not only the fumbles, but the fact that he’s got small hands, which probably accounts for the fumbles. If you take that out of the equation, he is the quintessential space player. Catch the football, real quick, make him miss.

“Duke Johnson from Miami is in that same mold. I really like Duke Johnson. As you go down through the draft, you can pick up some guys in the later rounds.”

Of course, with the depth of the class, there is a line of thinking that the Bills would be better off waiting until the later rounds to pick a running back. Whaley, though, doesn’t subscribe to that.

“People may say that, but I’m a firm believer if you want that guy and that’s your guy, get him, especially in the draft because you don’t know if he’s going to fall to you,” Whaley said. “If you’re committed to that guy, and you take him in the second, he may not get to you in the third. I don’t want to say ‘Aw, I should have.’ ”

The Bills will probably only need to add one running back to the roster if Spiller departs. Veterans Fred Jackson, Boobie Dixon and Bryce Brown are all under contract.

“The one thing we’re going to try to do is set up the roster through free agency, have most of our so-called needs filled so when we look at that draft board, we can go best player available,” Whaley said. “That decreases your chances of picking the wrong player.”

As it pertains to Brown – who played in just seven games, rushing 36 times for 126 yards in 2014 – Whaley said he’s got a “clean slate” with a new coaching staff led by Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

“We’re excited to see him come in with a clean slate like everybody else and perform like we think he should,” Whaley said.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com

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