Only a few years removed from being arguably the top running back in the NFL, Todd Gurley remains unsigned months into the offseason. The free agency period and NFL Draft shook up the landscape for many backfields. However, there are still potential landing spots for Gurley to fill that might bring value to fantasy football in 2021.
Todd Gurley was once the premier rusher in the NFL and for fantasy
Between 2015-2018, Gurley averaged 1,136 rushing yards per season and scored 46 touchdowns. He made three Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro in 2017 and 2018. In the latter year, he helped lead the Rams to a Super Bowl appearance. During that stretch, he was a locked-in first-round pick in fantasy football. After RB9 and RB15 finishes in 2015 and 2016, Gurley elevated his game to another level while in Los Angeles. In 2017, he led all RBs with 383.3 PPR points (25.6 ppg). He backed it up in 2018 with an RB3 finish, averaging 25.6 points per game.
Is it just me who feels as if this was a decade ago?
Then 2019 hit. After an offseason fueled by speculation surrounding his Super Bowl usage, Gurley showed signs of knee injuries hampering his play on the field. Rushing 223 times in 15 games, Gurley rushed for 857 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. He finished 2019 as the RB14 in fantasy (14.6 ppg). We quickly forget that going into the season, the Rams believed in Gurley enough to sign him to a four-year, $60 million extension that reset the market for the position.
Gurley struggled to find success in Atlanta
Fast forward one year, and the Rams ate a sizeable dead cap hit to let him search for a new landing spot. Gurley ended up in his college state of Georgia on a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons. Unfortunately, the home cooking was not enough to return him to All-Pro form.
Gurley recorded some of the worst stats of his career in yards per carry (3.5) and yards per game (45.2). He also failed to reach double-digit touchdowns for the first time since 2016.
In 15 games, Gurley rushed just 195 times for 678 yards and 9 touchdowns as the Falcons kept him on a snap count. From Week 8 through the rest of the season, Gurley never saw more than 9 carries or 26 rushings yards.
From a fantasy aspect, this was the worst season of his career. Despite playing in the most games since 2017, Gurley’s 163.2 PPR and 10.9 ppg were the lowest marks of his career. That production led to an RB29 finish on the season. His 0.71 points per touch in 2020 were also the lowest since his 2016 total (0.58).
Several teams addressed running back needs in both free agency and the NFL Draft. Nevertheless, there are a few openings that Gurley could assume and be a potential asset for the 2021 season. Will any produce fantasy success?
Potential landing spots for Gurley in 2021
Who benefits most from signing Gurley, and is there fantasy value?
Is it time for the Falcons to give Gurley a call? The Falcons made the change to Arthur Smith as the head coach in January. With him, they usher in a new identity to their offense. Smith was an integral part of the Tennessee Titans’ offensive scheme, which focused on the run and something we could expect to see more of in Atlanta moving forward.
After a phenomenal season filling in for the injured Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey, Mike Davis surprised with his fantastic 2020 season. Finishing as the RB12 (13.8 ppg), Davis rushed 165 times for 642 yards and 6 touchdowns. He accumulated 59 receptions for 373 yards and 2 more scores through the air. It’s almost more impressive when you realize he did this in just 12 games, as McCaffrey played in three of the Panthers’ contests last season.
Davis is the RB1 for the Falcons and, even with the potential addition of Gurley, would remain in this spot on the Falcons depth chart. However, they do not have a clear RB2 on the team behind him. The Falcons did add UDFA Javian Hawkins out of Louisville, but at 5’9″ and 183 pounds, it’s unclear if he would see more than a special teams’ role.
Atlanta knows what they would get in Gurley should they end up being his landing spot. He would remain on a snap count, and for the first time in his career, not be the focal point of the rushing game. Although he may not be more than a bye week fill-in or a potential flex option at best, Gurley could be able to step in for fantasy managers should anything happen to Davis throughout the 17-game season.
Another team that surprised many was the Miami Dolphins, as we all expected them to add a running back during the draft.
They deployed several backs last year and found their most success with Myles Gaskin, who came as a bit of a surprise. Gaskin set team-highs for the backfield in every category. He saw 142 rushes for 584 yards and 3 touchdowns while adding 41 receptions on 47 targets for 388 yards and 2 more scores. Don’t let his RB28 end-of-season ranking fool you, though. Gaskin was 13th in PPR formats in points per game at 16.6.
During free agency, the Dolphins added to their depth chart with former Rams RB Malcolm Brown. Brown rushed for 419 yards and 5 touchdowns on 101 carries in 2020. He’s averaged 4.0 yards per rush across six seasons with the Rams.
Signing Gurley would further bolster their running back room and would likely vault him over Brown on the pecking order for touches. If the Dolphins want to bring in an additional rusher, Gurley is the best of the remaining free agents. Although Gurley is likely to see less than 10 touches per game, there is some value in this potential landing spot for fantasy, especially if those are targets rather than rushing attempts.
This is a luxury addition at this point for the Bills. After capturing the AFC East and the hearts of many fans, they may be willing to add to their running back corps which has been average at best. We already speculated the Bills might add to their depth chart through the NFL Draft, but Gurley could have been the plan all along.
Outside of Josh Allen toting the ball, the Bills’ rushing game was inconsistent in 2020. They finished in the bottom half of the league in total rushing yards and yards per attempt. The jury is out on what both Devin Singletary and Zack Moss will become in the NFL.
As a duo, they combined for 268 carries, 1,168 rushing yards, and 6 touchdowns. They also contributed 52 receptions for 364 yards and another score. Thanks to his receiving work, Singletary finished as the RB31 in PPR (9.0 ppg), while Moss was the RB46 (7.8 ppg).
Should Buffalo be the landing spot for Gurley, it would be a better NFL move rather than a fantasy signing. There is nothing more annoying than a convoluted backfield, and this would be about as frustrating as it gets.
It would be difficult at best to project the weekly volume and who would be fantasy relevant. Not including the ever-present threat of Allen’s rushing prowess along with him taking a majority of the goal line attempts. All three players would simultaneously see their fantasy values drop in this situation so long as all three are active.
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