News & Analysis

Todd Gurley is a top-15 fantasy football running back after signing with the Atlanta Falcons

Well, that didn’t take long. Less than 24 hours after being released by the Los Angeles Rams, Todd Gurley was able to ink a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons. With Devonta Freeman released earlier in the week, Gurley steps into a barren depth chart where he’ll be the unquestioned feature back.

For fantasy purposes, Gurley’s time with the Rams was one of the wildest roller coaster rides we’ve seen in recent memory. He came storming out of the gate in his rookie season in 2015, finishing as the No. 9 PPR running back despite missing three games. Gurley followed his breakout season with a colossal disappointment in 2016. After coming off the board as the No. 6 overall player in 2016 fantasy drafts, he finished a lowly 15th among running backs for the season.

But the end of the Jeff Fisher era offered a respite from Gurley’s fantasy frustrations. Sean McVay came in the follow season and Gurley rebounded in a massive way. His 2018 campaign was one of the best we’ve seen from a running back in the last decade. Gurley found the end zone a combined 19 times and steamrolled his way to a first-place fantasy finish. 

He followed that up with arguably a better performance in 2018. That is, for the first three quarters of the year. Gurley was electric over his first 12 games, scoring 19 total touchdowns and again running away with the No. 1 spot. But then injury struck in Week 14 versus the Chicago Bears. Gurley gutted it out and played in the following week against Philly. But his injury ultimately sidelined him in Week 16, and fantasy owners had to watch C.J. Anderson rumble for 167 yards and a score in place of Gurley in the fantasy championship round.

That was fun.

Concerns about Gurley’s mystery ailment clouded his 2019 fantasy outlook, but there were larger problems afoot. The Rams went from being one of the league’s best run-blocking units in 2017 (fifth) and 2018 (first) to one of the worst in 2019 (26th). So it isn’t a coincidence that Gurley’s efficiency fell off. He still scored double-digit rushing touchdowns, but his yards per carry came in at just 3.8. That’s over a yard lower per carry than in 2018. He also saw a reduced role in the passing game, with his targets dropping from 5.4 per game in 2018 to just 3.5 last season.

As far as landing spots go, the Falcons are about as good as gets for Gurley. He joins a potent offense with minimal competition for touches. Better yet, Atlanta fared much better in run blocking than the Rams last season, grading out as the league’s No. 11 unit. There’s certainly some optimism here for fantasy purposes, but we also can’t overlook Gurley’s injury concerns — along with the fact that he has logged 1,483 touches over the last five years. Given the situation, it’s fair to view Gurley as a top-15 running back, which would likely position him as a third-round pick in 2020 fantasy drafts.

In Los Angeles, the Rams are left with Malcom Brown and Darrell Henderson. Before Henderson’s dynasty owners start foaming at the mouth, let’s be clear that the Rams will likely address the position in the draft. Henderson has an intriguing skill set as a change of pace back, but he doesn’t profile as a high volume back. There’s a very strong chance that the Rams’ top fantasy running back isn’t currently on the roster.

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