For a guy with 54 touchdowns scored in his last three seasons, the Los Angeles Rams didn't seem to work very hard in retaining Todd Gurley this offseason. Teams chock full of talent have that luxury. Running backs don't have that same prestige, and Gurley's release puts that on full display.
That said, Gurley didn't need to wait long in the unemployment line. The Atlanta Falcons snatched him up, pending a physical, and we don't yet have contract terms beside the news of it being a one-year deal. Considering L.A. is willing to take on more than $20 million in dead money, in addition to a $7.5 million roster bonus, I'm going to take their side. That's a big blow to their cap space and a whole lot to accept to just tell a guy to get out of the building!
First, let's talk about where this leaves the Rams before moving onto Atlanta.
We're still in the middle of free agency and the NFL Draft is about a month away. However, the cupboard looks bare to me. The RB depth chart as it currently stands is RB1 Malcolm Brown, RB2 Darrell Henderson and RB3 John Kelly. Unless you're playing in a dynasty league with 40-man rosters, those names don't really do much for you. I'd expect the Rams to add a cheap veteran and a running back selected late on Day 2 or early Day 3 during this year's draft. I can't see any of their current guys composing much more than a bad committee, both on the field and for fantasy owners, if they opted to roll with them into the regular season.
Gurley in Atlanta feels like a great fit. He's going to be 26 years old when the season starts. He was a top-10 pick coming out of the University of Georgia. He's back on the east coast, he's back in the south. These are his roots.
Atlanta has Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, so you can't stack the box. This can only be an improvement for the Falcons, who finished 30th in rushing last season with a paltry 85.1 yards per game. Atlanta finished the year with zero rushes for 40-plus yards. I'm pretty sure Lamar Jackson averaged 40 yards per rush last season (I'm kidding).
GURLEY TO FALCONS FANTASY IMPACT
Look, I have a Todd Gurley autographed jersey. If anything I'm slightly biased in favor of the guy. But this is bad news for Gurley fans.
I understand there is still a really good potential ceiling here. Maybe the NFL will postpone the season a month and give Gurley some extra time to rehab. But I err on the side of NFL management, even though we as fans often question their rationale.
If I'm the Rams and I've got millions tied up in Gurley and he's scoring almost 20 touchdowns per year for my squad, I'm not going to part with him for nothing without good reason. Therefore, if you draft Gurley in 2020 expecting him to be a top-10 running back, that's a bold, risky choice.
If you ignore the knee, this all shapes up great. He joins a strong offense with talented playmakers and a good-to-great quarterback in Matt Ryan. Atlanta will effectively use Gurley as a three-down back, as we saw very little from their current holdovers (Brian Hill, Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison). But alas, it all goes out the window if he's only capable of a dozen touches per week with shrinking third-down value as a receiver.
As of today, FantasyPros puts his ADP at 11th overall (standard) and 13th overall (PPR). For me, I'm not taking him in the first two rounds without lots and lots hyperbolic positive hype from the media and lovingly serenaded offseason coachspeak from the entire Falcons coaching staff. I could be dead wrong because there's no denying Gurley's talent when healthy. I just do not have faith in his knees to keep him healthy, which is a shame because he's been a special talent. He should go meet up with Frank Gore this offseason and see what he's sprinkling in his coffee every morning.
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