By Tim Graham
As elusive as touches were for Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller, he was just as elusive to tacklers.
Pro Football Focus computes an "elusive rating" for NFL players, and Spiller ranked first this season, well ahead of rushing leader Adrian Peterson and higher than any other player in the five seasons PFF has charted every play.
Elusive rating measures how well a running back can avoid being tackled beyond the help of his offensive line. The formula, concocted by PFF analyst Sam Monson, factors the number of missed tackles forced, touches and yards after contact.
"For a long time this season C.J. Spiller threatened to break the scale entirely," Monson wrote.
Monson set up the formula so a perfect score would be 100. No season leader had hit 90 before. Early this season, Spiller was registering over 400.
Peterson led the NFL with 71 missed tackles forced -- five more than Spiller but on 138 more touches.
"The rate at which [Spiller] forced misses was ridiculous for somebody given as many carries as he was given," Monson wrote. "Yet Chan Gailey couldn’t find a way to give him more touches, and Buffalo at times seemed to be actively scheming ways to keep the ball out of his hands.
"Spiller's season was so transcendent that you had to find a way to increase his workload and discover for yourself where the tipping point is in terms of diminishing returns. Not doing so simply left us all wondering what could have been. ... Failing to maximize his use probably cost Chan Gailey his job."
Spiller's backfield mate and the guy who siphoned off many touches, Fred Jackson, acquitted himself well on PFF's elusiveness chart. Jackson ranked 14th.
Former Bills first-round draft choice Marshawn Lynch ranked 11th for the Seattle Seahawks, while one-time Bills property Joique Bell ranked ninth for the Detroit Lions.
Not a bad stable of running backs the Bills had in the summer of 2010.