What To Expect From Todd Gurley in 2020 (Fantasy Football)
I recently realized that I just can’t quit Todd Gurley. A little over a year ago I wrote an article outlining his wide range of outcomes for 2019. As soon as he signed in Atlanta I wrote an instant free agent signing reaction piece on him. I even used him as part of my case against a Calvin Ridley breakout in 2020.
So it behooves me to dive into Gurley’s fantasy expectations for 2020.
Gurley’s career to this point has felt like quite the roller coaster ride, though in hindsight the valleys haven’t been as low as they may have felt. Take a look at his stats and fantasy finishes so far over his five-year career.
Gurley, fair or not, has collected some negative labels in the fantasy football community over the past few seasons. “Injury-prone”, “over the hill”, and “overworked” come to mind. However, it should be noted that, including playoffs, he’s taken the field in 77 of 82 possible games since making his debut in Week 3 of the 2015 season. His only missed game last season was due to a thigh bruise. He’s not even included in Matthew Betz’s injury report in the Ultimate Draft Kit. He still won’t turn 26 until August and he’s seen his touches decrease over the past two seasons, in large part due to how carefully the Rams managed his early-season workload in 2019.
It’s always tough to gauge expectations when a player lands on a new team, but as I mentioned in my instant reaction article, the fit couldn’t be much better for Gurley in Atlanta. He’ll be replacing Devonta Freeman in the Falcons offense and no matter how you look at it, Gurley is an upgrade. Freeman finished as the RB21 in 14 games last season, which should be the absolute floor for Gurley in 2020. His ceiling, on the other hand, is enormous.
The key to his success, like so many running backs, will begin upfront. The imposing offensive line that Gurley ran behind in his dominant 2017 and 2018 seasons disintegrated seemingly overnight in 2019. In Atlanta, he’ll be running behind a line with the potential to be one of the strongest units in the NFL. Proven assets Alex Mack and Jake Matthews anchor the line that should improve if last year’s two first-round picks Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary can stay healthy and take the next expected steps forward.
Receiving work out of the backfield has always been a strong part of Gurley’s game. Atlanta has averaged 650 pass attempts per season since 2018, easily the most by any team over the past two seasons. While they have plenty of options in the passing game with Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Hayden Hurst, it would take just over a 12% target share for Gurley to see 80 targets using Atlanta’s two-year average of pass attempts. For what it’s worth, during Gurley’s back-to-back RB1 seasons he averaged 84 targets. Seeing close to that many targets from Matt Ryan in 2020 is within the range of possibilities, especially with no other pass-catching specialist for him to compete within the backfield.
The biggest incongruity with Gurley’s fit in the Atlanta offense may come down to touchdowns. They’re the biggest difference-maker in fantasy football, yet the most difficult to predict. They’ve been the main reason Gurley has been so good for fantasy football. His 14 total touchdowns were why he was able to finish as RB14 last season despite barely cracking 1,000 total yards. He’s averaged 14 total touchdowns per season for his career and only fell short of double-digits one time. Conversely, Atlanta running backs haven’t found the endzone very often lately.
Most rushing TDs for the Falcons since 2018:
Ito Smith – 5
Matt Ryan – 4
Qadree Ollison – 4
Tevin Coleman – 4
Devonta Freeman – 2
Brian Hill – 2
— Aaron Larson (@aalarson) June 25, 2020
Tevin Coleman has the highest single-season touchdown total for Atlanta over the past two seasons by posting nine in 2018, and only four of those came on the ground. Atlanta’s high powered offense is poised to score plenty of points in the high-flying NFC South, but how many of them go Gurley’s way is tough to forecast.
This piece was originally going to be part of the “Why [insert player] Will Help You Win Your League” article series, but I found it difficult to nail down his actual average draft position (ADP). Whether or not he can be a league-winning player depends heavily on when you can secure him in a draft and, as of this writing, his ADP varies significantly by source, platform, and scoring system. I’ve seen it as early as the late-second round and as late as the fifth round. You may have a Gurley truther in your league that’s willing to reach for him in the second round or you might play in a league where all the managers are so soured on him that he falls to the fifth. Will he win you you’re league if you draft him in the second round? Probably not. But if you can snag him in the fifth round he just might.