With the NFL draft behind us, it is time for many of us to turn our attention to 2019 fantasy football. Although redraft leagues will not take place until closer to the regular season, it’s never too early to do viable research on players. In seasons past, extensive research would not need to be done on running back Todd Gurley.
Gurley finished as the #1 fantasy RB in standard leagues in both 2017 and 2018. In 2017, Gurley also finished #1 in PPR formats. Needless to say, Gurley has been a really good player to own, and worthy of the 1st overall pick in fantasy drafts. Following another stellar season last year, all signs were pointing that Gurley would be the consensus number one pick yet again in 2019.
A late season injury changed all of that, however. A knee injury severely limited Gurley’s usage down the stretch. For the playoffs, the Los Angeles Rams often went with the veteran C.J. Anderson over Gurley. Going into the 2019 season, Gurley’s knee issues are a major concern and has fantasy owners questioning if he can hold up for an entire season.
We’ll identify those areas of concern that could impact Gurley’s season, and why fantasy owners are correct in not unanimously claiming Gurley to be a first-round pick in fantasy drafts.
Gurley’s knee history will concern fantasy owners
In his final year at the University of Georgia, Gurley tore his ACL in a November game against SEC-rival Auburn. Viewed as the best running back of the 2015 class, the injury didn’t stop the then St. Louis Rams from selecting Gurley with the 10th overall selection.
The Rams did not rush Gurley back right away, but he did play in 13 games as a rookie. Up until last season, he showed no signs that the knee was a lingering issue. In Week 15, Gurley left the game against the Philadelphia Eagles with the injury but returned after missing just one series. The secrecy behind the extent of his injury ever since has been most concerning.
It came as no surprise that the Rams would hold Gurley out for the team’s final two regular season games. The move looked to be a precautionary one, and no one would argue that it wasn’t the right call. But when Anderson began to receive the bulk of the touches in the playoffs, it got people suspicious.
Fast forward to four months after the Super Bowl and not much has progressed in predicting what type of workload we can expect to see Gurley have in 2019. The Rams have tried to stay quiet, but it was reported in March that Gurley was diagnosed with arthritis in his knee.
No matter how the Rams may act publicly, they’re concerned. They showed their hand in how concerned they really are with a couple of moves to add to their backfield.
Rams offseason running back moves
Los Angeles made a couple of moves this offseason to bolster their backfield. The first of which came in March when they agreed to bring back Malcolm Brown. Brown was a restricted free agent and originally signed an offer sheet from the Detroit Lions, which the Rams quickly matched. Detroit made it pretty easy for Los Angeles to match as the offer was very team-friendly.
Head coach Sean McVay thinks very highly of Brown, and he could be in position for an expanded role this year. The more surprising move by the Rams though came during the draft.
They made a trade to move up in the third round to select RB Darrell Henderson from the University of Memphis with the 70th overall pick. This is the move that really had people asking questions about Gurley. It’s also the move that should have fantasy owners extremely cautious going into next season.
Some believe that this was the Rams best pick from this class. Henderson’s ability differs from Gurley’s, and together the two could transition into one of the best duos in the NFL. In terms of fantasy football, this pick transitions into more touches being taken away from Gurley.
Let us not forget that the Rams also drafted John Kelly out of Tennessee in the sixth round of the 2018 draft, and this backfield suddenly got crowded.
Gurley’s Fantasy ADP
Gurley’s Average Draft Position (ADP) is currently at the 1.06 position in PPR leagues. He’s positioned one spot ahead in standard formats at 1.05. Normally, it would be considered high praise to be viewed as a mid-first-round pick in fantasy football drafts. For Gurley, however, it’s a dropoff.
With the year that Gurley was having prior to his injury, he was again expected to be the consensus #1 fantasy player drafted in 2019. As of right now, he’s the fifth running back being taken off the board. Don’t expect that number to rise either. Quite the opposite is more likely.
Gurley will likely sit out a strong majority of the Rams’ offseason activities. He’ll be highly limited in training camp if he performs at all. McVay did not play his starters at all last preseason, and it’s very likely he’ll take the same approach again. Even if McVay changes things up this preseason, Gurley surely won’t see a preseason snap.
We may get some positive reports of Gurley’s status leading up to the regular season. That may gain some confidence for a few fantasy players, but the vast majority will remain skeptical. It’s more likely that players like Melvin Gordon or Le’Veon Bell jump Gurley in ADP at some point this offseason.
With the re-signing of Brown and the third round selection of Henderson, this Rams’ backfield has all the signs of a committee forming. Even if the Rams believe Gurley to be 100 percent healthy, they can’t afford to keep feeding him massive workloads.
Gurley will still clearly be the starter barring any setbacks, but a significant drop in touches is to be expected. Last season, Gurley averaged 22.5 touches per game. It wouldn’t be all that surprising if that number drops to somewhere around the 13-16 range.
A player skillfully gifted as Gurley in that offense averaging 13-16 touches a game is still worthy of a high draft pick in fantasy football leagues. I’m just not so sure it should be in the first round. If he happens to fall in your lap, however, in the second round then don’t overthink it. We all know what Gurley’s potential could be, and that’s great value at that point.
Gurley should still receive first-round praise by many until the start of the season unless something drastic happens. There are too many question marks surrounding Gurley that prevent me from making the same claim.