March 20 update: Less than a full day after speculating on his possible landing spots, Todd Gurley has agreed to terms on a one-year deal to join the Atlanta Falcons, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Some of what was posited below still holds true, but I could not have been more wrong on it taking Gurley a long time to sign. Without a physical yet, nothing is 100 percent sure. The optimistic view is that if the Rams were able to clear him prior to last year, Gurley’s knee condition finished the 2019 season no worse for wear. Dynasty leaguers should wait until the deal is finalized before showing interest in trading for Gurley.
Below, I outlined several teams Gurley could have joined, and the Falcons were one of them. I supposed Atlanta would rather get younger and faster, but I added that Gurley is intriguing in this offense. Here’s why:
- Gurley won’t have to be “the man” every week but still has that role available to him when needed.
- The offensive line is much better than what we saw last year. Injuries ravaged this group in 2019. All five projected starters are former first-round picks, and Los Angeles’ line is trending in the other direction.
- The addition of tight end Hayden Hurst helps free up coverage underneath for Gurley, and defenses are forced to keep tabs on Julio Jones at all times. Fellow wide receiver Calvin Ridley helps keep the rest of the secondary in check, leaving fewer players in the box.
- Matt Ryan’s veteran brain allows him to check into plays that are advantageous vs. a light defensive front for Gurley to find room. This may not have been the case had he gone to a team with an inexperienced quarterback.
- There’s no obvious competition for a large share of the touches. Gurley probably loses 5-10 handles a game to someone like last year’s fifth-rounder Qadree Ollison or 2017 fifth-round pick Brian Hill — both are try-hard types. Ito Smith remains on the roster, and the Falcons may draft someone to complement in the passing game.
- The defense flashed late last year after making coaching changes. With those promotions in place heading into 2020, this side of the ball looks to be improved to help keep the rushing game in play later into contests.
Fantasy football outlook
As mentioned below, Gurley is physically capped by how many touches he is likely to see, and there’s a wild difference in the range’s top to bottom numbers. It is a one-year deal, so Atlanta could abuse him with touches and wash their hands, or Gurley may be a piece of the puzzle in an offense with a pair of No. 1 receivers. In this situation, the outlook is most safely pegged somewhere in the middle. Some games, matchup-based, in all likelihood, Gurley will carry it 20-plus times and grind. In others, he’ll see a handful of touches. The year-end numbers may look much better than the weekly breakout of peaks and valleys.
A plus-ability to catch and also his prowess on around the end zone makes Gurley a fringe RB1, if bravery is your thing, but anyone with a sense of roster responsibility will target him as a second back. Gurley is likely to present a value buy in many situations, but his name value should maintain an overall sense of respect from casual and more thoughtful gamers alike.
(March 19) Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley is being released in a move that allows the team to avoid paying him $10.5 million in what would have been guaranteed money as of March 20, even though it will result in a $2.9 million hit against LA’s 2020 salary cap.
His arthritic knee was apparent in a visible lack of explosiveness in 2019, which is bound to rule out many RB-needy teams from showing serious interest in Gurley. Compounding the problem, teams aren’t bringing in players for physicals right now, so unless something is worked out with his local medical evaluators, Gurley may be forced to wait longer than most remaining free agents before signing.
Teams that really could use him will have to take a long look at last year’s game tape. Gurley showed his sniffer for the end zone still works, but the dynamic plays were practically non-existent, and his receiving involvement was deliberately capped. He may be forced to take a one-year or incentive-laden deal, and don’t completely discount the idea of Gurley not being signed at all before Week 1. It may seem crazy, but we don’t know what kind of money he will request vs. how teams view his market to be at this time.
Presuming no team currently views him as “the man” anymore, Gurley will be asked to share reps. His versatility allows teams to utilize him as a full-time back on limited reps, a situational rusher (goal line, for example), or a pass-catching specialist. One easily can imagine his intent is to sign with a contender, as well.
Buffalo Bills: Gurley would be a good mentor and change of pace for the more explosive Devin Singletary. Touchdowns galore would be in Gurley’s forecast as a Bill.
Kansas City Chiefs: Gurley could give the Chiefs what they thought LeSean McCoy was capable of delivering in 2019. Complementing Damien Williams is a need, but at what price?
Detroit Lions: Pairing him with the injury-prone Kerryon Johnson is somewhat risky but isn’t outlandish for a team in dire need of a consistent rushing attack.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs could be one of the leading contenders, although Melvin Gordon is a safer option with similar upside.
Miami Dolphins: Even after signing Jordan Howard, running back remains a moderate concern for an offense craving additional weaponry.
Atlanta Falcons: This one intrigues me a fair amount. Atlanta is arguably a contender with a few breaks going its way, and the backfield needs to be addressed. Cheaper and faster is probably how it will be done, though.
Of those teams, Buffalo would be the best-case scenario for Gurley’s fantasy football prospects.
Fantasy football outlook
As mentioned, he could help PPR gamers if a team chooses to run Gurley less and throw more passes his way. It stands to reason a player of his pedigree around the stripe should be relegated to such a role, perhaps exclusively.
We can speculate six ways to Sunday, but the reality boils down to this: If last year’s Gurley is the best we’re ever going to see again from him, regardless of the team, he is physically capped at being an inconsistent RB2 whose game is overly reliant on scoring touchdowns.