Buried underneath the avalanche of Tom Brady appeal news (and opinion) on Twitter earlier this week, was a significant development regarding the health status of St. Louis Rams uber-talented rookie running back Todd Gurley. The best health news of the week may belong to Kansas City safety Eric Berry (who is now cancer free), but the fact that Gurley, who tore his ACL less than nine months ago during his final campaign at Georgia, will open training camp on the active roster is a huge development that has plenty of fantasy implications.
RB Fantasy Football News
There is no guarantee that he won’t miss games at the start of the season, but the fact that he is going to avoid the non-football injury (NFI) list, which many expected to be the case, is a huge boost to his fantasy value. Just being able to participate in training camp (and pre-season contests) should help Gurley acclimate to the NFL and learn Jeff Fisher’s offensive system, which he is likely to be the centerpiece to.
The biggest impact this latest RB news has for Gurley is that he is likely to miss fewer games at the start of the season than originally anticipated. So how of a boost should his stock get as a result? Well, lets start with his average draft position (perceived value) before moving on to the actual projections (anticipated value).
According to MyFantasyLeague.com, fantasy RB Gurley’s average draft position (ADP) has spiked since the news. He’s currently being selected as the 12th running back off the board in point-per-reception leagues, ahead of studs like Arian Foster and Justin Forsett, which is absurd. Gurley is being taken on average with the 34th overall pick, which would make him a late second, or early third round pick in most leagues. While he has the upside to justify that type of investment, he carries plenty of risk, and the room for profit is so small when you are forced to burn a pick that early.
As you can see from my conversation with Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus on Twitter, Gurley’s price tag in expert leagues is a bit lower than non-expert formats, which suggests that some owners are willing to overpay for the upside of someone like Gurley (or Melvin Gordon) than settle for safer veteran options like Frank Gore, Alfred Morris or Jonathan Stewart. So the major question becomes is he worth it?
Let’s start with the St. Louis offense. It’s no secret that the Rams offensive line is abysmal on paper, but that was the case a season ago when rookie Tre Mason was fantasy-relevant for extended stretches. Despite all of their problems up front, St. Louis still managed to rank 20th in rushing yards, averaging 102 yards per game on the ground. Based on last season, it’s clear that the Rams place an emphasis on running the ball in the red-zone, which should benefit Gurley right out of the gate. According to ESPN’s red-zone statistics, only nine teams (Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Seattle) recorded a higher percentage of touchdowns on the ground in the red-zone than the Rams (22.7%) did last season.
Barring health issues, there should be little concern about Gurley’s performance on the field. According to Advanced Sports Logic’s “The Machine”, (your source for the best projections in the industry to help prepare you for your draft) Gurley is now projected to play in 16 games, and ultimately grades out as the 16th-best fantasy running back. According to the projections, Gurley is being drafted right about where he should be in most re-draft formats at this moment. Is he a tremendous value? No, but he certainly has a higher ceiling than most of the names being selected around him.
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