Where to Draft Todd Gurley n 2019
Fantasy football in 2018 was easy. Select Todd Gurley with the number one pick and steamroll the competition on the way to a fantasy championship. But great times do not always last in NFL, especially within the fantasy football landscape. As we enter the 2019 fantasy football season, no player has been more arguably debated more than the Gurley. The debate surrounding his health. How effective will Gurley be in 2019? Regarding his health/injury risk where should he be taken in fantasy drafts? Does he represent the ultimate buy-low candidate or are you pressing the self-destruction button on your fantasy team by drafting him? Let’s analyze the curious case of Todd Gurley.
Todd Gurley 2019 Fantasy Expectations
The writing is on the wall for Gurley’s role to be different in 2019. The days of him being a bell-cow back are likely over. Though this statement by Ian Rapoport on NFL Total Access, the moves the Rams were making this offseason made it quite clear they wanted more running backs involved in the offense. The full statement explains that “Just based on his knee, his age, the position, the amount of carries he’s had…It’s probably not going to be like that, which by the way is maybe why the Rams drafted a running back in the third round, someone they really like a lot. This is a team that is clearly ready to spread the ball around.”
The two prime examples being that they matched the offer sheet that the Detriot Lions made to running back Malcolm Brown to retain him on the roster. Brown averaged 4.9 yards per carry and 10.4 yards per reception in 2018. But one thing to note via TheRams.com was that Brown may have been kept more aggressively because of his role on special teams. Brown was in for 27.8 percent of Los Angeles’ total special teams plays; a pretty high percentage considering he missed four games.
Additionally, general manager Les Snead came out in March and explained that there was place in McVay’s offense for a more hybrid-type running back. Snead’s comment proved to be true when the Rams traded up to draft Darrell Henderson out of Memphis in the third round. Since drafting Henderson, Snead drew comparisons to Alvin Kamara stating that “Henderson gives the team an Alvin Kamara element” via Cameron DaSilva on Twitter. These actions all contribute towards the trend that Gurley will not be a bell-cow in 2019.
Then consider the facts that Gurley has been held out of on-field offseason activities, he’s trying to lose weight to take the pressure off his knees, and that McVay just wants him to feel the most comfortable he can be. McVay told reporters via NFL.com, “I want him to feel most comfortable. That’s the most important thing, what he feels he can most function at, being the all-purpose back he’s been and that’s where we’re at.”
“The one change that Todd Gurley is going to make, and this is according to (personal trainer) Travelle Gaines, and this is in conjunction with the Rams, is Todd Gurley’s goal is to play close closer to 218 pounds this season, last year he played closer to 224, 225,” Steve Wyche of NFL Network said. “McVay has said by lightening the load a little bit, they’re going to make him a little more agile, maybe make him a little more dangerous in the passing game.
All the signs this offseason have shown that Gurley will be a different piece in the Rams offense in 2019. The only “positive” news we have heard about Gurley is that he himself does not see it as a major problem. “I had bigger problems to worry about coming out of college,” Gurley said Tuesday (6/11) at the start of Rams mandatory minicamp. “This is small.” McVay has also previously stated that he wants Gurley to remain a focal point of the offense.
In most cases, many fantasy owners are just fading Gurley straight up to avoid the potential headache that he may end up being in 2019. But anytime a player of Gurley’s caliber on one of the best offenses in the NFL has declining draft stock, there is a potential to get him at a value.
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Todd Gurley In PPR Leagues
Average Draft Position as of June 23rd
Currently, as of mid-June, According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com Gurley is going off the board as the RB10, at the 2.04 spot. This is Gurley being drafted at his ceiling. I say ceiling here because I do not think Gurley falls into the category of being a top-three running back in fantasy football anymore.
Again the reason why his ceiling needs to be lowered is that Gurley’s role will be different in the offense. The Rams are going to lean on him less from a volume standpoint. Former running back Maurice Jones-Drew someone close to Gurley has come out and said the Rams are going to use Gurley less in 2019. He said regarding Gurley that, “I think you can expect (22 touches per game). But he may not be on the field for 80 snaps,” Jones-Drew said on Thursday’s (6/6) edition of NFL Total Access. “He may be on the field for 60 or 50 snaps instead of having to be on the field for 16 games playing 80 snaps to 90 snaps a game. That’s not gonna happen anymore.”
Gurley played on 74.7 and 75.8 percent of Los Angeles’ regular-season offensive snaps in 2017 and 2018, respectively. That equates to 50.4 snaps per game in 2017 and 56.6 snaps per game in 2018. He has also averaged 22.7 touches, 135.3 total yards and 1.4 touchdowns per game over the last two years. Both snaps and touches are going to decrease in 2019. But based on Gurley’s opportunities to score in a high-powered Rams offense how much does it matter?
Via JJ Zachariason’s Late Round Podcast, Gurley in 2017 and 2018 combined in the regular season for 126 red zone carries. The next closest running back to that number was Ezekiel Elliott with 79 red zone carries. Gurley has 29 touchdowns which were 10 more than the next closest running back. Gurley has also had the most goal line attempts with 44. Mark Ingram is second with 30 goal line attempts. His touchdown opportunity share has been the key to his fantasy success. Now the question is does that specific role change in 2019? Will the Rams continue to pound Gurley close to the end zone? Well, there’s a small sample that says the Rams could shy away from Gurley near the goal line.
In the playoff games last year Gurley did not see a single goal line touch. Journeyman C.J. Anderson saw four. In the red zone, Gurley had two touches, Anderson had 15. Anderson was benefitting from the red zone trips which is why he became such a fantasy asset at the back end of 2018. But for me personally, I am still not sold Gurley will lose the majority of touches near the end zone. He thrives in the role and I am not sure taking his goal line touches salvages his body any more than just taking away overall touches in the first place.
For example, Kamara last season despite his frame being smaller than Gurley (5’10” 214 lbs) ranked second in red zone attempts (52), second in runs inside the ten (34), and second in runs inside the five (16). So I am not convinced that Gurley would lose his dominant goal-line role to be less susceptible to hits to be the rationale behind it; considering the Saints have no problem deploying Kamara in that role.
Though it seems like the Rams drafted Henderson to take on a Kamara-like role who’s to say Gurley can’t fill in there; Would that be such a crazy theory to use Gurley like the Saints use Kamara? It is a copy-cat league after all and Kamara has been able to maintain great efficiency in his first two NFL seasons with a more limited workload than most top fantasy running backs. Gurley has shown prolific skills as a receiver through his years in the NFL and the Rams need to find a way to extend Gurley’s career. His contract has the Rams stuck with him for better or for worse.
Last season Kamara averaged 18.3 touches per game. Through the first four weeks with no Mark Ingram, he was averaging 22.75 touches per game. Essentially the same workload Gurley has had over the total past two seasons on a per game touch basis. But after Ingram came back in Week 5, Kamara’s weekly touches dropped from 22.75 to 16.72 touches per game. This was approximately a 30% decrease in workload. Kamara saw 33% (91/275) of his total touches Weeks 1-4. If we took the Kamara’s workload with Ingram and applied it to Gurley’s efficiency within the Rams offense we would see that same 30% decrease; Projecting to 100 total yards, 16.78 touches, and 1 touchdown per game. Over 16 games that translates to 1600 total yards, 268 touches, and 16 touchdowns. This is the most realistic ceiling for Gurley in 2019. But what is the realistic expectation?
Gurley should score double-digit touchdowns on the Rams in 2019 and that should not surprise anybody. And because of that touchdown upside, Gurley settles as a top-ten back in fantasy. That’s because, over the past seven seasons, 77% (54/70) of top ten running backs in PPR leagues scored at least ten touchdowns. That is where I would end up placing Gurley’s realistic projection for touchdowns between 10-14. Gurley has missed games towards the end of the season that last two years and it would not be surprising to see him a miss a game or two during 2019. So there will most likely be slight touchdown regression for Gurley. The other factor that could contribute to regression is changes to the offensive line.
The offensive line was number one graded by Pro Football Focus last season in overall run blocking. The line is going to look different in 2019. According to Justin Edward at 4for4.com the Rams lost more games started along the offensive line than any other team from 2018-2019. In total, they lost 236 games worth of experience losing out on of left guard Rodger Saffold and center John Sullivan. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth almost retired. This should not be ignored and we have seen in the NFL, offensive line performance changes quickly from year to year.
In the end, drafting Todd Gurley as the RB10 right now in drafts is drafting him at his ceiling. The days of him winning you fantasy leagues are over, but he can still be extremely serviceable as a low-end RB1 or better yet a high-end RB2. But the farther Gurley falls into the second round of drafts or even third, the more you as a fantasy owner need to address the situation and scoop him up! Drafting him in the third-round would be an absolute steal on value.
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