Before the 2020 regular season begins, Todd Gurley will be 26 years old. It feels like he’s 30. Gurley grew up in Baltimore but attended a high school in North Carolina, as a three-sport star (football, basketball, track). Gurley played both offense (RB) and defense (DB), in his senior year. He was named North Carolina Associated Press Player of the Year after totaling 2,600 yards and 38 TDs (those are video game numbers), along with helping to win the 2A NC state championship.
Additionally, Gurley was a world-class hurdler and sprinter and competed for Team USA, where he took 3rd in the prelims at the 2011 World Youth Championships. Considered a four-star recruit by Rivals.com, he attended the University of Georgia.
Playing in 14 games his freshman season, Gurley rushed for 1,385 yards on 222 carries, 17 TDs and became only the 2nd true freshman in Georgia history to rush for 1,000 yards (the other was Herschel Walker).
In his sophomore season at Georgia, Gurley also ran track for school. In October of that year, he sprained his left ankle and missed three games. Gurley also had a history of a sprained ankle in high school, as he mentions here.
The following season, his last at Georgia, Gurley dealt with suspension stemming from allegedly receiving money for signing autographs and memorabilia. In his first game back, Gurley tore his left ACL, ending his season.
There are some reports that, in addition to the torn ACL, he also caused significant meniscal damage. Gurley had this taken care of during the surgery. Since he was still rehabbing, Gurley did not complete any of the running or jumping exercises at the NFL Combine.
Gurley was (still) selected with the 10th overall pick by the St. Louis Rams in the 2015 NFL Draft. Gurley made his debut about ten months after his ACL injury, rushing for 566 yards in his first four NFL starts, and it became evident that Gurley was special.
During the Rams’ first season back in Los Angeles (2016), Gurley struggled to match the hype he showed in his rookie season. He finished with the 885 rushing yards, 17th most in the NFL while averaging about 55.3 yards per game, and six TDs.
2017 brought a head coaching change, and it benefitted Gurley and the Rams; with Jeff Fisher out and Sean McVay in, Gurley had one of the greatest seasons in NFL history. He led the NFL with 13 rushing TDs (19 total TDs) and 2,093 yards-from-scrimmage and all-purpose yards, and was named NFL OPOY.
Gurley got PAID the following offseason (2018), signing a four year, $60 million ($45M guaranteed), making him the highest-paid RB in the NFL.The 2018 season started strong. Over the first 14 games, Gurley rushed for 4.9 YPC, totaling 256 rushes for 1,251 yards, 17 TDs, adding 59 receptions, another 580 yards, and four more TDs. At one point he broke the record for scoring a TD in 13 straight games, now that’s the definition of an RB1! Then an issue began to arise.
In Week 15, Gurley reportedly suffered an unspecified left knee injury. An MRI described only inflammation and soreness, with no structural damage, but this ended up causing Gurley to miss the final two games of the season. Since the Rams earned a first-round playoff bye, Gurley had an additional week to rest and recover.
Nearly a month later, January 9th, Gurley had his first practice, and he was limited. Most 24-year-olds, without any structural damage in their knee on MRI, do not have to take a month off. There was something the team and medical staff weren’t disclosing.
In the Division Round game three days later, Gurley only rushed 16 times, and he was out-snapped by the recently added C.J. Anderson. McVay blamed Gurley’s limited reps on ‘poor cardio’ and reportedly didn’t suffer any setbacks in the game.
The following week, a ‘healthy Todd Gurley’ only played in 32 of 69 snaps of the NFC Championship game. Something was not right with Gurley. Finally, in the Rams loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl, Gurley had a total of 10 rushing attempts. Ten.
Despite insisting that he was healthy, his usage down the stretch screams that he wasn’t. In March of 2019, we find out that Gurley has arthritis in his knee, and he had been dealing with it since mid-December. Gurley had what is known as an arthritis flare. The knee fills with fluid, swelling, pain, and inflammation. It takes time for these things to calm down.
You’re probably asking how does a 24-year old get arthritis in his knee? Genetics may have played a role, but more than likely this has to do with his ACL tear four years prior. A tear of the meniscus accompanies over 70% of ACL injuries. The meniscus is the shock-absorber for your knee and is vital to preventing osteoarthritis from forming too quickly.
If Gurley had to have a large piece of his meniscus removed during his ACL reconstruction, plus add in all the additional wear-and-tear from his time as an RB, as well as a track star in high school and college, and you can begin to justify how someone who is technically only 24 years old may have the knee of a 50-year-old.
Gurley’s 2019 season was strong. He rushed for 857 yards and 12 touchdowns; however, his 3.8 yards per carry average. He also added 31 receptions for 207 yards and two scores. These are good numbers, but when compared to 2018 (1,831 total yards, 21 touchdowns, and 59 catches), it's disappointing.
After failing to trade Gurley and his $5.05M bonus, as well as $25.6M in dead money, the Rams just bit the bullet and released him.
The Atlanta Falcons signed him to a one year $5.5 million contract with an additional $3.5 million in incentives. Still an impressive salary, but in contrast to his previous one, this is a significant pay cut.
Now let’s review the injuries. We already thoroughly discussed the torn ACL, likely meniscus tear, and subsequent knee arthritis.
Gurley played in 15 of 16 games for the Los Angeles Rams in 2019, as he only missed one game due to injury, a quadriceps bruise/strain. There are two main ways to sustain a quadriceps (‘quad’) injury. One is due to running and sustaining an injury to the actual muscle (‘strain’). The other is taking a big hit, like a helmet directly to the quadriceps, which causes significant bruising and bleeding inside of the muscle (‘contusion’).
In the case of significant bleeding, there is a lot of pain and tenderness. If this is not removed by needle (aspiration) within the first couple of days, the blood traditionally starts to thicken and becomes difficult to remove (and surgical evacuation is sometimes necessary). Thankfully, Gurley only missed one game and was able to return in week seven. Going forward, this is not something you should have to worry about is these are usually not something that reoccurs.
Gurley’s knees, unfortunately, will never have the same strength, versatility, or burst that he had five years ago. The workload, history of knee injuries, and some genetics likely have taken their toll permanently.
While certain treatment options may help a little bit, including platelet-rich plasma (PRP), bone marrow aspiration (stem cell), amniotic cell injections, and viscosupplementation (gel) injections, none of these are going to be sufficient enough to help Gurley regain his former dominance.
Here’s a video of him rehabbing his butt off this offseason. Included in this video is his leg pressing over 450 pounds with his “bad leg.” While this is nice to see, unfortunately, his form was poor and this is him at the peak of the off-season. The exercise does not directly translate to his ability to cut, show burst, and block. With each week of the season, the wear and tear will again begin to take its toll.
In the 15 games that Todd Gurley played last season, he averaged 15 attempts per game. His average yards per attempt lacked behind a weak offensive line (3.8), and he totaled just 57 yards a game. His 12 touchdowns were the critical stat that kept him as an RB2.
Gurley’s workload was up and down between both halves of the season. Ranging anywhere from 15-25 carries, with 104 total carries in his first seven games to 131 in the next eight. Gurley added 31 receptions for 207 yards and two scores in the air.
As a Falcon, he will have the entire backfield to himself. Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, and Ito Smith all took turns to prove their worth in 2019, and they all failed. All three offer respite for Gurley, nothing more.
For comparison, looking over Devonta Freeman’s numbers in 2019, he carried the ball 184 times for 656 yards and two touchdowns and added 59 receptions on 70 targets for 410 yards and four scores. These numbers can be achieved and surpassed by Gurley, as he is the more talented back.
Gurley has a better offensive line in Atlanta. They are a top-tier unit that operates a zone-running scheme. The line is led by center Alex Mack and left tackle Jake Matthews. Atlanta drafted Matt Hennessy in the third-round. Guard Chris Lindstrom was an often injured rookie last season.
Matt Ryan has been up-and-down each season over the last six seasons. Starting since 2014, Ryan has been either Pro-Bowl material one year and fodder the next. 2020, Ryan should be on point. He has plenty of weapons to throw to.
Atlanta likes to pass. As a unit, they ran the fewest run plays. Therefore, they will lean on players such as Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and new tight end Hayden Hurst who takes over for the departed Austin Hooper (Cleveland). The Falcons brought over Laquon Treadwell from Minnesota, who has been a bust and is looking for a fresh start.
Even though this is a passing offense, the Falcons will feed Gurley the rock more than they did with Freeman, as he was hurt for much of the 2019 season.
Sports Injury Predictor states that Gurley has a 52.4% chance of injury in 2020 and expects him to miss one game due to injury.
Gurley’s best days are behind him, but he can still be a productive back in the right system. Atlanta can be that system. The offense will rest on Ryan’s shoulders, allowing Gurley to have a lighter load. Just don’t expect 2017 or 2018 numbers.
Gurley has the potential to be a sneaky fantasy player in 2020. At this point (early June), Gurley has an ADP of an RB15, which is around players such as Leonard Fournette, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Josh Jacobs, and Melvin Gordon.
The ceiling is there for Gurley to climb up to an RB12. If he is going in the 15 to 20 range but has the upside of the RB8 - 12, then I think that’s a great value, especially in PPR leagues.
My (Dr. Morse) injury risk for Gurley in 2020 is 6 out of 10. There is a better chance I will draft him in 2020 as his price will be significantly suppressed compared to 2019 when I wanted nothing to do with him because his price was too high given his risk.
The big worry is his health in those knees. Thankfully the risk is now built into the cost. RB15 is a safe place to keep him and hope for a ceiling breakthrough.
Injury Risk: Moderate. 6/10.
|Projected Missed||Probability of injury per game ?||Probablity of injury in the season ?|
|Oct 9, 2019||Leg Quad Strain||Gurley was held out of practice due to a quadriceps injury. He missed one game|
|Dec 16, 2018||Knee Strain Grade 1||Gurley suffered an unspecified left knee injury in Week 1, dealing with it until the final 2 games of the regular season. He called the issue "inflammation." Gurley reported soreness following the loss to the Eagles.|
|Dec 27, 2015||Pedal Toe Turf Toe||Gurley sat out one game after suffering from a mild case of turf toe.|
|Nov 15, 2014||Knee ACL Tear Grade 3||Gurley tore his left ACL against Auburn in November. The injury was of the non-contact variety.|
|Sep 28, 2013||Pedal Ankle Sprain Grade 2||Gurley sprained his left ankle and missed 3 games in October.|