Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury: You hold a man’s fantasy fate in your hands. You’ve heard the news; you’ve seen the projections. Now, it is your duty to decide Todd Gurley’s fantasy fate. Should you draft Todd Gurley? You’ll hear from the Prosecution, trying to convince you to move Gurley down in your rankings, and you’ll also hear from the Defense trying to persuade you that Todd is still a top 5 RB and should be drafted as such. Ultimately, the decision is yours, and yours alone whether or not to draft Todd Gurley.
Here now, are the analysts, Cody and Nate, to present their closing arguments:
Prosecution: Todd Gurley is NOT a Top 5 RB in 2019
Thank you for joining us today. I’m not here to tell you that Gurley is going to be awful in 2019. I’m not here to tell you that Gurley can’t be a fantasy asset for your teams. Nay. What I am here to tell you, however, is that Gurley cannot possibly be a top-5 back for the upcoming fantasy season. Let me explain why.
The only reason why we’re debating this is simple: the arthritic condition of his knee. Honestly, I believe this is a bit overblown and fantasy owners are panicking too much. I think Gurley can still provide us with useful fantasy performances on a weekly basis. Here’s the issue – Gurley is currently being drafted at 1.12 (RB8) in half-PPR drafts. He’s being valued at his ceiling.
Fantasy enthusiasts everywhere have loved Gurley the past two years because of the volume he received in a high-scoring offense. In both 2017 and 2018, Gurley ranked fourth in the league in rush attempts despite missing three combined games over those seasons. He was also in the top five for offensive snap percentage during that time, and in the top seven for running back targets. The dude was the definition of a workhorse. Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports recently reported that Gurley’s backups – Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson – would split 35% (or more) of the backfield touches. This, in turn, insinuates Gurley is going to see at best 65% of the remaining touches. We simply cannot expect Gurley to return a top-five running back value with his workload expected to be cut this way.
The other major issue we’re unsure of relating to Gurley’s reduced workload is where those touches will be taken from. Again, in 2017 and 2018 Gurley led the NFL in red zone rush attempts. This included from inside the 20, 10, and 5. Eighteen of Gurley’s 30 rushing touchdowns over that time period came from inside the 5. What happens if those extremely fantasy-valuable touches start to diminish?
Can he still be good? Absolutely, and I truly think he will be. At his current price tag, however, I’m staying away and I don’t see a top-5 finish for Gurley in 2019.
Defense: Todd Gurley IS a Top 5 RB in 2019
In the words of Aaron Rodgers: “R-E-L-A-X. Relax.”
There is one reason, and one reason only, that Todd Gurley isn’t being drafted #1 overall: arthritis. Otherwise, nothing else has changed. The Rams still project to be a top 5 offense, Sean McVay still calls the plays, Goff still plays quarterback for the Rams, Gurley’s passing game role remains secure, and Gurley remains the goal line back. These factors, which are still present today, previously led to two straight years as a top 3 fantasy back. Rather than anoint Gurley to the 1.01 for the second year in a row, fantasy owners are panicking. Why? Because Gurley barely played in the Super Bowl and the Rams moved up in the draft to select a back in the third round.
The Super Bowl was over six months ago. That’s six months to rest and manage the arthritic knee. While it may not feel like it, Todd Gurley is only 25 years old, and a young body like that is still very capable of recovering from injury. Also, all camp reports regarding Gurley’s health are positive. Indeed, he has apparently done everything the Rams have asked of him. As if I needed more reasons to convince you that the health issue is overblown, the foremost injury expert in fantasy football, Dr. David Chao, explained that having arthritis after tearing an ACL, which Todd did in college, is common. But, it is not a career death sentence. As you know, we’ve routinely seen running backs come back from torn ACLs to be dominant (e.g. Todd Gurley himself)!
Look, I don’t deny that Todd’s usage is going to come down. But I say, good! The reason his knee inflamed last year was due to over-usage. His usage was unsustainable before, but a little less usage does not mean I’m going to draft the likes of James Conner and Le’Veon Bell over him. That’s because Gurley still projects for the majority of carries in a top-5 offense that is going to score a ton of touchdowns. Honestly, his new role is indistinguishable from Alvin Kamara, who nobody is questioning as a top 5 RB. Oh, and Gurley scores more touchdowns than Kamara!
But here is the silver bullet: in the Super Bowl and throughout the playoffs without Gurley, the Rams offense was quite stagnant (especially in the Super Bowl). His versatility remains critical to the success of that offense because he is such a threat out of the backfield as a pass-catcher. None of the other Rams running backs offer any of the same dynamic pass-catching skills. Sean McVay might be the smartest offensive mind in the world, and you don’t think he knows that? No way, McVay knows he needs Gurley, and he needs to frequently use Gurley to successfully implement his offense.
Gurley may see fewer snaps and fewer carries, but he still projects to score a ton of touchdowns, catch a ton of passes, and run for 1200 yards. If that sounds like a top 5 running back to you, that’s because it is. All running backs have injury risk, so draft Gurley with confidence and RELAX!
There it is, ladies and gentlemen. We’ve laid out our best arguments in an attempt to inform and persuade you concerning Todd Gurley and his draft status. Should you draft Todd Gurley? Hopefully we helped you come to a decision. Let us know what you’re doing with Gurley this year!