2020 has been a roller coaster ride for Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley, and he has taken fantasy football managers on that ride. After three straight bad weeks, can Todd Gurley bounce back in Week 15?
Todd Gurley has struggled to make an impact since the Falcons bye
The 2020 season has really been a story of two halves for Todd Gurley and his fantasy managers. In the first nine games of the season, Gurley consistently put up solid fantasy numbers. Across those nine weeks, Gurley averaged 64.9 yards per game, scored nine touchdowns, and added 77 receiving yards on 13 receptions.
In seven of the nine games, Gurley scored double-digit fantasy points, with 6.1 in Week 2 and 9.7 in Week 6. During those nine weeks, he averaged 15 fantasy points per game in PPR formats. Those 15 fantasy points per game would place Gurley as the RB13 right now. Not spectacular, but not a disappointment either.
It has all gone downhill since the bye week
Coming out of that Week 10 bye, Gurley has struggled significantly. His troublesome knees have led to him being limited in practice, and he missed the Week 12 game against the Las Vegas Raiders. In the three games he has played, Gurley has accounted for a total of 61 rushing yards and 19 receiving yards. He has scored just 12 fantasy points in that stretch.
Opportunities have been a big part of the issue. Prior to the bye, Gurley was averaging 17.7 carries per game and 2.4 targets per game. Since the bye week, Gurley has just 22 total carries and six targets.
The dropoff since the bye is opportunity-driven to some extent. Gurley’s output has been poor since the bye for sure, but not significantly so. In those three games, he has averaged just 2.8 yards per rush attempt. However, prior to the bye, that number was only up at 3.7.
Sure a difference of 0.9 makes a difference over time, but over the course of 10 carries it works out to 0.9 fantasy points per game. If Todd Gurley were averaging 0.9 fantasy points per game less since his bye week, we would barely have noticed. That terrible efficiency naturally plays a part in the reason for Gurley seeing fewer carries, but 3.7 yards per rush attempt was hardly a reason to keep giving Gurley over 15 carries a game before.
A lack of touchdowns has also hurt Gurley recently
In the 2020 season, the Falcons have a total of 69 red zone carries. Todd Gurley has 51 of them, resulting in eight touchdowns. Over the course of the season, Gurley has seen an average of 4.25 red zone carries per game. Since the Falcons bye week, that number has dropped to just two red zone carries per game.
Part of that has been due to a reduction in opportunities for the Falcons in general. In the three games Gurley has played, the Falcons have just nine red zone carries. That is a reduction from the 5.3 per game they have seen over the course of the season.
Touchdown dependency masked the problems for Gurley
If you are a manager with Todd Gurley on your team, you were likely fairly satisfied with his first nine weeks. Every running back has a blip here and there, but you had a borderline RB1 on your hands. Even now, Gurley has just a negative one percent Fantasy Points Differential, which, while not good, is not a disaster either. The biggest cause for concern is that it places him as the RB45. However, opportunities often trump mediocre play in the world of fantasy football.
However, digging deeper would have revealed a serious reason for concern. Over a third of Gurley’s fantasy points this season has come from touchdowns, hiding the fact that without finding the end zone, Gurley would average just 7.8 fantasy points per game in a PPR format.
That concern is further highlighted when we look at Gurley’s Consistency Score. Consistency score looks at how often a running back scores a high number of fantasy points and ranks the players from best to worst. Entering Week 15, Todd Gurley ranks a less than impressive 27th. He is down among the likes of James Conner, Melvin Gordon, and Ronald Jones. All perfectly adequate fantasy football contributors, but hardly star names in the 2020 NFL season.
Is Todd Gurley a player fantasy managers should start or sit in Week 15?
When you are a struggling running back, averaging 3.6 yards per rush attempt, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not who you want to see on the schedule. The Buccaneers lead the league, allowing just 3.5 yards per rush attempt this season. Todd Gurley is also an opportunity-driven fantasy producer, and that is a problem in Week 15. No NFL team has allowed fewer rush attempts this season than the Buccaneers.
Over the course of the season, the Buccaneers allow just 80.9 rushing yards per game on average. Just three teams have topped 100 rushing yards, while four have been held under 50. Equally, they do not allow many rushing touchdowns, nine in 13 games. As an opportunity-driven, touchdown-dependent fantasy producer, it does not get much worse for Todd Gurley this week.
There is very little reason for optimism about Todd Gurley this week
When we look at the matchup using Pro Football Network’s Defensive Points Allowed Consistency Score (D-PAC), the problems continue to mount. The Buccaneers rank as the 10th-toughest matchup for running backs in terms of D-PAC. In raw fantasy points, they rank as the sixth-toughest team to face.
The other issue for Gurley is that the way to attack the Buccaneers does not really suit his style. The Buccaneers allow the most receptions to running backs in 2020 (6.2). While Gurley leads the Falcons’ running backs in targets, they have been reasonably shared. Gurley has 28, Brian Hill 22, and Ito Smith 18. If fantasy managers were hoping Gurley could boost his return with a five-reception day, they are likely to be disappointed.
It is never easy to sit a running back with the pedigree of Gurley. However, this is not the Todd Gurley we once saw in a Los Angeles Rams uniform. At this stage of his career, in his current form, against this opponent, Week 15 might be a good time to start investigating what other RB options you have available.
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