No player’s fantasy value has declined more over the past five months than Todd Gurley’s. To be fair, there’s a lot farther to fall when you’re on the top of the mountain, which is exactly where Gurley sat after completing the rare back-to-back top running back seasons in ½ PPR leagues.
He put up 29.4 fantasy points against the Eagles in Week 15, and his value has been nose-diving ever since. He proceeded to miss the last two games of the regular season before getting outplayed by C.J. Anderson in the NFL playoffs. There’s been injury speculation swirling ever since, and the Rams fanned those flames by matching the Lions’ offer sheet to retain Malcolm Brown, then dumped gasoline on them by trading up to draft Darrell Henderson in the third round of the NFL Draft with pick 70.
After being the runaway 1.01 in 2018, he’s currently going at 1.09 and trending downward. The Ballers selected Gurley with the tenth overall pick in their recent mock draft. They noted that he’s still capable of having a monumental season, but also mentioned that there are plenty of questions surrounding him. He’s one of the most intriguing fantasy players to debate this offseason because he has such a varying range of outcomes. He’s currently ranked number six in the Ballers consensus rankings in 0.5 PPR scoring. So what exactly are the possible outcomes for Gurley in 2019?
Outcome #1: The RB1
Since 2002, 14 different running backs have claimed the title of overall RB1 in fantasy football. That includes the past two seasons when Gurley himself took home the RB1 crown. The average age on that list is 25.7 years old, right in Gurley’s wheelhouse, as he’ll turn 25 in August. He’s scored 40 TDs over the past two seasons, including 21 in just 14 games last year. He still has the ceiling to finish as the overall RB1 in 2019. It may not be the most likely outcome, but there’s no denying that it remains a possibility.
Outcome #2: Top-Tier RB
Realistically, the odds of him three-peating as the overall RB1 are slim. Again since 2002, no running back has finished as the RB1 three separate times, let alone three consecutive seasons. Regression is bound to happen at some point, but that doesn’t mean Gurley is doomed for 2019.
Much of Gurley’s success this season will be tied to whether or not he can stay on the field. Despite being perceived as injury prone, he’s only missed five games due to injury in his professional career. After tearing his ACL in college, he was eased into his rookie season and didn’t make his debut until Week 3 of 2015. He also sat out the last game of 2015 with turf toe. He didn’t miss another game due to injury until the infamous final two regular season games of 2018.
Gurley’s team situation couldn’t be much better. Head coach and universally accepted offensive mastermind Sean McVay are on the record saying that he plans to keep Gurley the focal point of the offense in 2019. He’s also stressed that Henderson was drafted for his versatility and playmaking ability, not as a Todd Gurley replacement. No team in the NFL has scored more points since he McVay took over in 2017. It’s a perfect situation for a fantasy running back.
There’s currently an influx of elite running back talents in the NFL, which will make it difficult to predict who finishes as the RB1 for the season. If he stays healthy and remains the focal point of his offense, Gurley will be in the top tier of running backs, whether or not he finishes the season in the top spot.
Outcome #3: Timeshare RB
There’s a chance that the Rams will want to limit Gurley’s involvement in order to keep him healthy and fresh throughout the season. Despite remaining committed to Gurley, McVay has conceded that they will explore managing his workload. That would make sense, considering Gurley has 1,229 career touches through the first four seasons of his career. For some context, the eternal Frank Gore has 3,837, Le’Veon Bell has 1,541 and Melvin Gordon has 1,079. It would certainly make sense for the Rams to start limiting Gurley’s touches and saving his legs for the key late-season games and playoffs, but would they go full blown running-back-by-committee?
The positional depth in Los Angeles does make it an intriguing option. The efforts they made to keep Malcolm Brown and draft Darrell Henderson certainly seem to imply they want to at least lighten Gurley’s load. That may not be the worst thing. We’ve seen players like Alvin Kamara and Devonta Freeman put up huge fantasy seasons while sharing a backfield. It may not be ideal, but it certainly wouldn’t be a death blow to Gurley’s fantasy value.
Outcome #4: Injury Report Regular
This is where it starts to get dicey. The Rams and Gurley were never very forthcoming regarding the knee injury that kept him out at the end of last season, and he certainly wasn’t his normal dominant self in the postseason. The injury was listed as a knee strain, and the word inflammation was thrown around a lot. This offseason there’s been rumors of arthritis and stem cell treatments. Gurley himself has basically refused to give a straight answer about his knee.
This kind of ambiguity often leads to one of the biggest headaches in fantasy football: constant injury report watching. You never want to own the guy that’s limited in practice and listed as questionable on the injury report every week. Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, and Marlon Mack come to mind from 2018. They’re the guys you don’t feel confident starting, you can’t get fair value for in trade, and you can’t bear to drop. It’s a fantasy purgatory that you don’t want any part of, and it’s completely possible that it ends up being Gurley’s 2019 narrative.
Outcome #5: Season-Ending Injury
This is the biggest fear of anyone that drafts Gurley in 2019. Every NFL player is one play away from a season-ending injury. Gurley has an injury history that, while not as extensive as it may seem, is far less than ideal. Both the torn ACL from his college days and his recent knee issues occurred in the same left knee. There’s no denying that his chances of a major injury are higher than most. A season-ending injury can leave you desperately trying to dig your fantasy team out of a hole, and it’s a risk that is certainly present with Gurley.
Is there some risk with Todd Gurley in 2019? Absolutely. Is he worth a late first round pick? Absolutely. He’s not likely to three-peat as the RB1 for all of fantasy football, but there’s every reason to believe he’ll still finish as a top-10 running back. That’s an asset that will typically go a long way towards earning a #FootClanTitle.