Todd Gurley started his 2016 campaign as one of the top-flight fantasy football RB1s on the heels of a strong rookie campaign in 2015. He ended the year as one of the most cursed names in fantasy football, as he failed to return on this promise. The offensive line, inconsistent quarterback play and mustachioed man at the top all bore the brunt of the blame for Gurley’s failures. He received the benefit of the doubt this year, as he is the #11 running back off the board. Many people give him a pass for everything working against him turning around in 2017. To that I say: not so fast.
Everybody remembers how Gurley started his NFL career with a bang (no, not the six attempts for nine yards dress rehearsal). He started off with 141.5 yards per game on 22 carries to start his career, scoring three touchdowns in four games. He was the hottest commodity for a short stretch, but since then, he’s been bad. He’s gotten the ball just over 17 times a game since that start, and he managed just 59 yards per game on the ground. He lost three full yards per carry since starting hot and now has a twenty-four game sample size of being bad compared to his four-game sample size of being good. Yet, people will still take him as their RB1.
There’s a lot of ways to say Gurley was bad, but I’ll put it this way: he has one 100-yard game since his four-game outburst, and that still came in 2015. His receiving yards certainly helped, but it was not as much as an offset as Gurley backers would lead you to believe. He received two targets a game in 2015, and just over 3.6 in 2016. He took those extra targets for whopping six additional yards a game compared to his 2015 numbers. He wasn’t good last year, and he wasn’t good for most of 2015.
People like to blame that on the offensive line, which has upgraded, and Jeff Fisher, who is gone. Go pop in a Todd Gurley tape. He misses holes, he doesn’t shake people in the open field, and he goes down at the first sign of a tackle. While the line was bad, they weren’t getting shoestring tackled. While Jeff Fisher was awful, he wasn’t the one failing to juke anyone. The fantasy football community at large hand-waived this away and put Gurley on average as the eleventh RB off the board.
All-in-all, Gurley didn’t do much last year. While he ended up with 1200 yards from scrimmage, he did it in 29 more opportunities (rushes + targets) than the second-ranked player who had yardage in that range, and it took him almost 90 more opportunities to get 1200 yards as Isaiah Crowell. He simply didn’t do anything with his opportunities. In fact, among running backs who had at least 100 carries, only Doug Martin, Thomas Rawls, and Rashad Jennings did less with their opportunities. Gurley went for 3.6 yards every time the Rams drew up a play for him, which are bad yards per carry, but dismal yards per opportunity. For the record, the leader, Tevin Coleman, went for 5.96 yards per opportunity.
There’s a lot to dislike about Todd Gurley going into 2016, but he remains a talented back. He is going ahead of guys with some question marks, but he honestly deserves to go behind them. He’s more appropriately valued in the RB15 range, but he’s going in the top-ten. Outside of all his struggles last year, he promises to get a reduced load as the Rams coaching staff brought in Lance Dunbar in the third down back role. Gurley will get reduced opportunities this year, and he did as little with his opportunities as anyone in the NFL last season.