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Is Todd Gurley Worth a First-Round Fantasy Pick?

Coming off a knee injury that limited his production late last season, should fantasy owners take the risk of drafting Rams running back Todd Gurley in the first round?

Would you draft Todd Gurley with a first-round pick? After leading the league in touchdowns the last two seasons, the Rams' running back now faces questions about his health and usage. Below, two experts debate whether or not he's worth a first-rounder in 2019.

Gurley Is Still an Early Draft Pick

Frankie “Fantasy” Taddeo: Taddeo is the 2017 and 2018 Top 100 Players in the World Invitational champion.

One of the biggest question marks facing fantasy owners in 2019 is whether to invest an early draft pick on Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley. As we know, if we base this question off of Gurley’s usage and performance in the Super Bowl, it’s difficult to make a case for drafting him in the early rounds of fantasy football this year. However, what if Gurley’s knee has healed and he performs like he has in the past few seasons? The 25-year-old has consistently been a top-three running back in fantasy football over the past several seasons. In addition, it’s important to highlight that if we exclude quarterbacks from top rankings, the top-five fantasy scorers in PPR formats last season were all running backs.

If you are looking for production, it’s hard to argue against drafting Gurley when looking at the numbers alone. In the last two seasons, he has averaged 135 yards per game while finding paydirt for his owners an NFL-best 40 times. Even if the Rams ‘dial it back’ on his workload, Gurley is still capable of producing top-10 stats at the running back position in Sean McVay’s high-powered offense. If we dive in deeper and break it down by the numbers, let’s say the Rams reduce his workload this season by 25%. That would still leave Gurley at around 102 yards per game with an overall 2019 touchdown projection of 15.75 (nearly one per game). Those numbers would put Gurley in the top-five discussion, let alone top-10. This would make Gurley an easy first-round candidate.

Points scored

Even if the Rams employ rookie Darrell Henderson more in between the 20s, we know Gurley is going to get the ball in the red zone. Gurley has been given the rock more than any other running back inside the 5-yard line over the past two seasons alone. Now let’s not forget what separates Gurley from the likes of Marlon Mack, Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette and other strong running backs—his pass-catching prowess in PPR leagues. The rumors are that McVay plans on employing Gurley more out of the backfield to take away from the pounding more associated with running in between the tackles. Gurley has averaged 62 receptions per season over the past two years while finding the endzone 10 times via the pass. To put that in perspective, Falcons wideout Julio Jones, an elite receiver being drafted in the first round, has just one more receiving touchdowns over that span.

All offseason we have heard from McVay and the Rams that Gurley is ‘feeling good and right on track’ for where the club wants him to be. As we all know, injuries are always a risk in fantasy football, so for successful fantasy owners, it comes down to finding value among the risk. If you can grab Gurley in the late-second or early-third round, you could be getting the steal of the draft! Taking the risk on Gurley and then pairing him with the likes of Miles Sanders, Jaylen Samuels or Devin Singletary could pay huge dividends with high-upside players towards the end of drafts. For those who are wondering, I do not recommend drafting Gurley and then handcuffing him with Henderson. In early drafts over at the Fantasy Football World Championships, Henderson has been going in the mid-seventh, early-eighth round, and at that price it would be a detriment to your roster construction. Not until at least the 11th round would I recommend handcuffing Gurley with Henderson. 

Overall, while I believe fantasy owners shouldn’t hesitate from pulling the trigger on Gurley, I’d prefer to get him somewhere in the second round. However, when going up against the best in the world, you may not have that luxury, and taking Gurley at the end of the first round could be your ticket to a fantasy football title!

Stay Away From Gurley

Adam Ronis: Ronis has won six figures playing fantasy football and has hosted fantasy shows on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio since 2010.

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If Todd Gurley were fine, the Rams running back wouldn't be falling to the end of the first round or the middle of the second round. The Rams running back would be one of the first few picks off the board. 

Gurley has arthritis in his left knee and it's a major concern. It's the same knee in which he tore his ACL in 2014. It clearly impacted his production late last season. In Week 14, he had 11 carries for 28 yards and three catches for 30 yards against the Bears. The following week against the Eagles, he had 12 carries for 48 yards and 10 catches for 76 yards. Then it was revealed he had left knee inflammation. He missed Weeks 16 and 17, costing many owners a fantasy football championship. After not playing a game for four weeks during the NFL postseason, Gurley had 16 carries for 115 yards with a touchdown and two catches for three yards in an NFC Divisional Round game against the Cowboys, who were also gashed by backup Rams running back C.J. Anderson.

In the NFC Championship against the Saints, Gurley had five touches and played 32 of 69 snaps in a competitive game the Rams squeaked by with a victory. In the Super Bowl against the Patriots, after two weeks of rest, Gurley produced 35 yards on 10 carries and one reception. This is a major red flag. Most players will try and play through injuries, especially in championship games. Either the knee was so bad Gurley couldn't be effective on the field, or the Rams didn't trust him. 

Anderson had 51 touches and Gurley had 37 in the three playoff games, and for those thinking Gurley will get a lot of red-zone looks in his limited touches, that's not the way the Rams played it last season. Anderson had 15 red-zone attempts in that stretch, while Gurley had a mere two.

Gurley won't play in the preseason, so there will be no indication if the knee is fine. He is not going to get the workload he had in previous seasons. That much has been made clear. The Rams drafted running back Darrell Henderson in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Most times when a team selects a running back that early, they have plans to use him. The Rams also matched the offer sheet on restricted free agent running back Malcolm Brown. Henderson is going to play a role in the offense and GM Les Snead compared him to Alvin Kamara. Henderson could take receptions away from Gurley.

When Gurley was asked about the knee in early July, he said: “It's good, man. It's good... I'm just like, hey, we're going to find out in training camp, you know?" Players are usually extremely optimistic. Those words sound very discouraging and like a guy who doesn't know how his knee will respond to game action.

Many who are optimistic about Gurley are saying with even 16-20 touches per game, he can still be good in an excellent Rams offense. How do we know he can hold up? What if the Rams use him even less than anticipated? Will he have the same burst? The knee could flare up at any time.

Gurley has risk. If you don't think so, you're very optimistic on injuries. While many running backs have flaws in the first few rounds, we know Gurley has an arthritic knee. Sometimes it's as simple as looking at the signals teams send and in this instance there aren't many positives.  

The goal in the first few rounds of a fantasy draft is to minimize risk. Sure, Gurley has the upside if he's fine, but all the signs point to him being used less. Less volume isn't good for anyone and his ceiling is severely lowered. I am avoiding Gurley in not just the first round but also the second round of all fantasy drafts. Don’t expect to see him on any of my rosters.