Todd Gurley: A Comparative Case Study
Updated: Apr 22, 2020
Coming out of Georgia, it took only his rookie season to fall in love with this running back. Making the Pro Bowl 3 of his first 4 seasons, His dominance rose to Offensive Player of the Year levels. Including playoff appearances, he proceeded to rack up 1718 total touches in his first four seasons. Later, he developed a degenerative knee disorder known as arthritis that would cloud a once bright future. This player is, of course, Terrell Davis!
Tom foolery aside, TD and Todd Gurley should be compared. Not for their Alma mater or their accolades, instead for the similarities between their knee condition and to examine the "Cliff" Terrell Davis unfortunately fell off at age 26.
Terrell Davis seamlessly transitioned to the NFL, putting up gaudy statistics. In 1998 he became only the 4th player at the time to rush for 2000 yards in a single season. That year, his fourth season, Davis had 2225 yards from scrimmage and 23 total TDs. In Todd Gurley's 2017 campaign, he tallied 2093 yards from scrimmage and 19 total TDs.
After winning two Super Bowls, SB 32 MVP honors, four 1100+ rush seasons, a league MVP, and with countless other distinctions under his belt, nobody could have predicted that his career arc was going to make such a steep decline.
After missing only 3 games in his first 4 seasons, Terrell Davis played in only 17 of the next 48 games. Missing an average of 10 games per season between the ages 26 and 29. After multiple knee surgeries and battling arthritis he humbly retired at age 29.
Todd Gurley played only 30 of 42 games at Georgia stemming from his ACL tear. Gurley will be 25 when the 2019 season begins, one year younger than Terrell Davis was when he hit his "Cliff". Like Davis, Gurley has proven durable, missing only 6 games in his career (week 17 twice). He too, has endured a heavy workload. One that, for fantasy purposes, we wish would continue.
Playoffs included, Todd Gurley has amassed 1281 touches in his four year career. Terrell Davis had 1718 touches in his first four seasons before hitting his "Cliff". A difference of 437 touches. With the confirmation that Todd Gurley does, in fact, have an "arthritic component to his knee", he may soon be a greater injury risk than he's worth. Therefore, I’m avoiding him in Dynasty formats.
The most ominous outcome would play out identically to TD's career. Todd Gurley just now walks into his new contract, which is nearly impossible for the Rams to cut or trade him for three years. The next feasible out is in 2022.
You cannot afford to buy that much risk in the earliest rounds of Dynasty Startups. I don't recommend him in Best-Ball formats either. His ADP is falling and should settle ironically close to where he was going in 2017 drafts.
Metric marvel Darrell Henderson was acquired on a trade up by Shaun McVay. McVay would later reference his playbook, claiming certain plays could now be unlocked. I considered him an elite prospect before the draft (my third ranked rookie running back). Hendo wrapped up his collegiate career with a historic yards per carry mark, and a yards created score that rivaled Joe Mixon and Saquon Barkley.
I'm taking Henderson at cost. I expect to see him in some high leverage situations. Malcolm Brown and John Kelly should both make the team, further proving that the Rams value their depth at RB. Malcolm Brown should be first in line for early down/ between the tackles work pending a Gurley absence.
It's not a countdown, but the 437 touch difference between Gurley’s career workload and Davis’ at his "Cliff" shows that Gurley’s perceived upside could evaporate at any time. Given the injury, drafting of Henderson, and McVay and GM Les Snead bluntly stating that Gurley will have a diminished role we can't expect Gurley to return on a top 5 RB investment.