If you’re an owner of a team that you believe is primed to win now, I have been analyzing the facts on Gurley, and if it would be worth the price to buy from his current rebuilding owner. In this article, I am hoping to provide some insight on why Gurley might be the perfect piece to take your team to the fantasy promised land. I understand it is impossible to truly know what is going on with Gurley, but this is my attempt to try and piece together his fantasy output.
It’s almost a point in and of itself to state, “it’s Todd Gurley, how is he not a championship winning piece?” However, due to his arthritis people’s opinions are all over the place, and people don’t know what to believe. So let’s start with his injury, I am personally no doctor, but I have a close friend who is currently in medical school that has helped formulate these next opinions. Yes, arthritis is a degenerative disease that will shorten Gurley’s career, but it is also not a disease that magically starts one day (which last year’s postseason has led people to believe). Arthritis for NFL players is normally a result of ligament injuries and workload (Gurley tore his ACL in College and has been a true NFL workhorse). The link is a common misconception as some fantasy players will not even consider worrying about players long term value following an ACL tear. This is because some believe the current technology and rehabilitation for ligament tears basically makes them a non-factor for future fantasy production. There are examples where players have come back from ligament injuries and have seemed to be unaffected, but there will always be an increased chance of reinjury, and in time arthritis. This leads to my belief that the Rams would have been aware of an arthritis issue when they signed Gurley to his massive contract. The team probably didn’t realize the impact 300+ touches would have on their playoffs, so I suspect they will most likely not make that mistake again. Therefore, it is almost a guarantee that Gurley will see a decreased workload.
If the Rams can properly implement load management to prevent the knee from becoming inflamed then there is no reason Gurley won’t be running as well as before. When an NFL franchise such as the Rams can put their money on Gurley to be productive, that makes me feel better about putting my own faith in him. Furthermore, because ligament injuries are directly linked to arthritis, what intrigues me about some owner evaluations is that there are other players that have torn their ACL recently (for example Dalvin Cook) and are not being considered to have a decreased long term value (from the increased chance of developing arthritis). Cook is another player I have seen being valued over Gurley on some forums. On top of Cook’s hamstring injuries, the Gurley situation raises my suspicion that Cook (or any back with serious ligament injuries) may be one 300 touch season away from developing this Gurley level of arthritis (and that is if Cook can stay healthy to receive those touches). As I see it, of the two injury prone backs the biggest difference is that one of these players has played a full season and is on a team that has produced the top fantasy running back over the last two years.
Which leads me to my second point, the team. If we look at the Ram’s last two seasons, we can begin to develop the entire role of the Rams running back position. I am choosing to average the last two seasons to try and negate the impact of offense regression and to create a stronger idea of what the Rams fantasy output has been (.5 ppr). Over the last two seasons the Rams running back position has averaged 72 receptions, 745 receiving yards, 1694 rushing yards, and 23 touchdowns. In .5 PPR, that translates to 417.9 total fantasy points. In other words the running back position two year average is equivalent to Mahomes last season (417 fantasy points). If you project Gurley to receive 70% of that workload, he would get 292.5 fantasy points which would still put him at RB5, ahead of Zeke Elliott last season. If you want to be even more pessimistic on his workload and take 60% of that production you get 250.7, which would place him at RB7 last season ahead of Melvin Gordon and two points behind James Conner. Regardless of Gurley’s injury, the Rams are just that good. Their historical running back statistics display that there is easily a way that both Malcom Brown and Henderson get touches (even 40% of the running back production) and Gurley is still a top tier fantasy option. I understand there is speculation on game script and usage if they get too far ahead or what exactly load management will mean, but Gurley should get the red zone work and regardless of the amount of touches he receives, he should be a top-10 back in 2019.
I think there is a very realistic possibility that if they effectively incorporate load management, Gurley can have multiple years ahead of him of top-10 production. Not often can you buy a stud for this low of a value. Therefore, Gurley is a great addition, or hold if you are in win-now mode. I understand people are scared of the risk, but I see Gurley being a week-in and week-out RB10 floor with the possibility to be the RB1 on any given week. That kind of upside wins championships.